Wedding tips, ideas & stories, from The Photographer

Advice

Image Friendly Wedding Tips #2; Dress Code

Dress Code? Or Dress Theme?

I will say this tip isn’t for everybody, but requiring, or suggesting a dress code isn’t as far fetched as you think.

There are two main reasons why you may want to have a dress code; First, either the you, or the reception venue want to maintain an appearance fitting for the location. Second, you feel there may be some confusion by your guests about how they should dress.

Black Tie & Jacket Required

Although not very frequent, there are still Black Tie & Ultra Formal weddings. Also, some country clubs & high end hotel venues may also have a “Jacket Required” policy. And while most venues might not stipulate that the policy be in effect for your guests, your guests eventually will have to enter, or leave the reception area and could end up feeling out of place, so a suggestion, or request to dress appropriately should appear on your invitations.

General Wedding Attire

Let be honest, in most cases, women are pretty clear on what to wear to a wedding, us men on the other hand can fail miserably. A personal shameful incident came while I was in college and after asking to be invited to a cousin’s wedding reception at a fancy country club, I showed up in mock turtle neck & a bad multi-colored sweater vest. I looked like the offspring of Steve Jobs & Bill Cosby, while everyone else was in suits & ties.

The point of that story is, even though I was well intentioned, I wasn’t aware at the time that most men wear suits & ties to weddings. Especially if you’re a young couple, you will most likely have guests who are at their first wedding where their mothers aren’t dressing them. Once again a suggestion on your invitation will help insure you don’t have any photos of you rolling your eyes when you see a friend in a work polo, or your cousin in a club attire.

Weather & Locations

The two examples above are both related to how you & the venue you might want the guests to dress, but what about how the guests themselves would like to dress? If you’re getting married outside in the summer, especially if the reception is outdoors as well, you might want to seriously think about letting guests know if you’re ok with dressy casual attire, so nobody shows up in a dark suit & tie for a beach wedding and women aren’t in high heals on the beach.

Themed Weddings

I’m not talking costume party here, but on occasion some couples like to have a theme, or style to their wedding. Often it sticks to decorations and the venue, but I have seen it incorporated into the guests attire. Last summer, Jinnel & Randy (pictured above) had a 40’s style swing theme to their wedding. While many of their friends showed up dressed to play along, it wasn’t a mandatory thing, but enough guests played along so that combined with the swing band & the ball room at the Mayslake Peabody Estates, the wedding took on the vibe they were going for.

Above all make sure your guests know they can come to you, or your wedding planner with questions about how they should be expected to dress.

Remember, keep it simple if you do a dress code. There may be one or two people annoyed by it, but best scenario it stops a few people who would only RSVP for the open bar from coming. Although chances are you still won’t be able to stop uncle Charles from wearing the fish tie.

Did you include a dress requirement for your wedding, or did you have any wedding attire nightmares? I’d love to hear about them, post in the comments section.

For a breakdown of wedding dress codes, check out this post from the You Look Fab blog
http://youlookfab.com/2006/05/15/the-wedding-dress-code-primer/

Doing an homage to your love for Star Wars as part of your first dance… Cool & funny.

Making your grandma dress up like a Jawa… Not cool.

VincentDaivdJohnson.com


Go Beyond the Top 3 Search Results

Searching for wedding vendors

Searching for wedding vendors

Finding a wedding vendor that stands out from the background noise isn’t as easy as locating the bride in this photo.

One of my main reason for doing this blog is to help couples plan out the best possible wedding day that they can. For most of us, this is our first (and hopefully only) time we’ll be getting married and even if we’ve recently had a friend or family member who tied the knot, coming across information, or tips from seasoned professionals isn’t always easy to do.

While the internet has put information at a bride’s finger tips, it’s also littered with disinformation as well and companies looking to game the system as much as they possibly can. Especially when it comes to the billion dollar wedding industry.

The tip I have today is basically look past the first page or two of results when looking for a wedding vendor. This stands true for search engine results from the likes of Google, Yahoo, or Bing. As well as vendor lists on sites like The Knot.com, Weddingwire.com & Brides.com. Common sense tells us that in most cases the companies listed at the top are the best, but unless you’ve done some internet marking yourself, you may not realize that all of these vendors are paying and paying big time to get in front of your wedding day eyes. Sites like The Knot can charge close to $4,000 a year just to be listed. Some of the bets photographers I know & don’t know in the wedding business aren’t even listed there.

If you devote a little more time to your search, you’re more likely to find vendors that aren’t paying to be number 1, and are using less of their money on advertising and more on the quality of their product, or staff used for the service part. These vendors aren’t usually high volume and will sometimes be willing to work out a sweeter deal to fill empty calendar dates.

As always, do your due diligence. Read reviews, or testimonials & ask for references from past couples.

VincentDaivdJohnson.com


Congratulations Jinnel & Randy

Wedding at Mayslake Peabody Estate

Wedding at Mayslake Peabody Estate

I often get calls from couples who are looking for a photographer who isn’t a traditional wedding photographer and one of the main reasons for this search is because the couple feels  that they’re style, or ceremony is going to be different from the norm.

I mostly just nod in agreement and smile as couples explain exactly how different things will be from any “normal” weddings I’ve photographed and the reason I do this is, as a photographer in a major urban area I’ve had the pleasure of seeing many diverse and unique weddings, and even then, everything that can be done, has been done, unless you’re going for some Guinness World record.

Wedding photography mayslake peabody estate

The reason I bring this all up is not because Jinnel & Randy told me their wedding was going to be “so different”, but the fact that while they may have done a few things outside of the norm, it was the overall style & vibe of their wedding that truly made it feel different and unique. The Peabody Estate, had a charm & warmth, that made it feel more like you were at the summer home of a wealthy family, and the band who was hired to play swing & jazz standards was a perfect touch. Which just added to the vintage charm of Jinnel & Randy’s wedding attire, as well as most of their guests, who for lack of a better term, played dress up to go along with a swing theme.

If I can say one thing to couples looking to break out of the wedding mold, work on doing something that really speaks to who you are and not just something that nobody else is doing.

See more photos on from this wedding on my Facebook page.

vincentdavidjohnson.com


What’s more important the photographer or the photographs?


If you think about how your wedding day will unfold, you’ll realize that out of all the people you’ll be spending time with, almost no one, including your soon to be spouse, will be with you more than the photographer.

Often when I’m contacted by a couple about my services, I often hear about how they like my photos, but later I’ve been told a big reason why a couple chose me, is that during our face to face meeting I made them feel very comfortable.

This is something that took me a year or two to realize, that it was part of the services I had to offer and not just my ability to dress well & smile.

In the past I’ve talked about important things to think about when choosing your location, ways to make sure your photographer has a the opportunity to get good photos and ways to get a good photographer if you’re on a tight budget, but I’ve never actually talked about getting a photographer you’d like.

While I can’t tell you what you should personally like in a photographer, I can tell you that no matter how good the portfolio, package prices or options offered, you should actually like the photographer you’ll be working with as much as you like their products.

A few good examples of when having a likable photographer is nice are;
-when the bride and bridal party are getting dressed & ready
-in the extra small waiting rooms before the ceremony
-those intimate moments when the couple are alone, away from everybody after the ceremony
-and interacting with your guests

Still not quite sure what to look for in a photographer? Here are some good starting points.

1. Do they sound like they enjoy shooting weddings, or is this just a 9-5?

Wedding photography is a job, but while the responsibility of taking photos on one of the greatest days of a couples life is intense, if they’re not into it, it will show up in the photos as well as possibly being disruptive the day of.

2. Do they talk about bad weddings & bridezillas more than happy brides & beautiful ceremonies?
I’ll admit I’ve talked at length before about wedding mishaps and bridezillas, but I usually try to focus it on how a future couple can avoid pitfalls, as opposed to just an all out rant. Stories about how to make your wedding better are often a sign a photographer cares about your experience as much as your business.

3. Do you actually get to meet them and are they guaranteed to be your photographer?
Studios often have a sales person you meet with to discus packages, albums & prints. While you might have a choice based on portfolio, meeting the photographer is often a day of the ceremony occasion. Also, be sure to ask up front what your photographer’s switching policies are? Even small independent photographers have been know to double book a date and substitute a second photographer or assistant photographer in place of themselves.
Above all, follow your gut and not your wallet. If you get a recommendation for a photographer, ask your friends about their personality as well as their professionalism.


WANTED; Wedding photog, $500 or Less, Students Welcome Part 1


I don’t read a lot of Wedding or Bridal Magazines. Ok, I don’t read any, but I do know that there are articles on the topic of “Budget Weddings” & “Fantastic Weddings on a Shoe String Budget” and so on. With the current economic outlook, I’m sure there will be more of these articles popping up in magazines and web sites like theKnot.com.

In regards to photography though, somewhere the myth of the student photographer shooting a wedding took off, but unlike Unicorns, there are actually college students who take good weddings photos. But there is a huge difference from finding someone to shoot your wedding for cheap and finding someone to shoot it cheap and good. If you are one of those people looking for that, read this before making you post on Craig’s List.

As a couple, the 3 most important things you will choose for your wedding in order are; The Dress, The location & The photographer. (see my previous blog post The 3 most Important Things). Those stories you’ve heard about someone having a student, or a friend shoot their wedding and they got the most amazing pictures back… well they are real, but are few and far between.

If you want a great way to save a few bucks, start by not spending $15 each on a handful of magazines. Now before I get to far off topic, the reason of this post is about my arch enemy… The student photographer.

Well not really, I like student photographers and think any chance they can get for real world experience they should take it. I think a student photographer isn’t something that every bride wants, as much as I think that paying a lot for a bad photographer is something every bride wants to avoid.

All to often people look at photography as something they themselves can do and in turn are astounded by the cost of hiring a professional. While most people understand that taking 1 great photo out of 100 does not make them Ansel Adams, thinking someone who has a little bit of schooling will definitely be better at it than you is a sound thought, but thinking they may someday be the next Ansel Adams isn’t exactly on the mark. Consider this fact, only 7% of people with a degree in the arts go on to make it a career.

First; Most people who’ve had luck with a student usually knew the photographer and were already impressed with their work before hand. If your cousin isn’t studying photography at an art school, or you don’t have a friend who’s roommate freelances for the local paper, chances are you aren’t one of the lucky few who can save money while still getting great results.

You should probably then be looking at getting a profession who’s work you like and who’s price you can afford.

Try getting someone who doesn’t require an album to be purchased, or if you want to buy the digital copies of the photos, see if you have an option to buy them after the wedding. Try putting off as much as you can till after the wedding.

While most vendors will want some type of payment (be careful when vendors want full payment up front), deposits that aren’t due at signing help in making a budget spread out.

But if you’re still hell bent on going this route here are a few suggestions.

See Part 2


The 3 Most Important Things You Will Choose

Every couple I ever sit down with I tell them about the three most important things you will choose for your wedding in order.

1. The Dress

2. The Location
Chicago Skyline wedding photo

3. The Photographer

Explanation;
The Dress
– Honestly if the bride doesn’t fell like the most beautiful/important woman at her own wedding, people will know. It will show up in photos, videos and the bride sets the tone for how the guests behave and in general whether or not everybody is having a good time.

Brides, this does not mean you need a $50,000 D&G one of a kind dress. It just means you need to be happy and comfortable with what you’re wearing. If you have somebody with you whose opinion you value, take stock in what they think, but go with your gut whether it’s the first, or 20th dress you’ve tried on.

About half the brides I shot in 2008 got their dresses at David’s Bridal (unpaid plug). And I’ve seen everything from designer dresses to individual one of a kinds ( OnlyJangMi.com shameless plug for my wife’s web site), but once the dress goes on and brides see themselves in a mirror, they know why this is number 1.

The Location – I’ve seen backyard weddings that are beautiful and Luxury Hotel Receptions that are awfully tacky or bland. While renting out Millennium Park in downtown Chicago might not be an option for most of us, intimate or unique locales also set a tone for your wedding.

In a sense your wedding is as much about the day as it is about remembering the day. Is your location something that people will be talking about? Do you feel that it’s a perfect setting for your perfect day? Or is it more of a place of convenience?

Finally, will it add to, detract from, or be a non-factor in your wedding photos? Which brings us to the third most important thing.

The Photographer – Yes, I do seem a little biased on this third most important factor, but honestly it’s true. Your wedding photos will live on long after you do. Family tree albums, anniversaries. Wedding photos of deceased grandparents have been displayed at many welcome tables at weddings. The only other thing that last as long if not longer than your photos are the rings.

Not everybody you want will be able to attend your wedding, they will however want to see images from that day. You will of course want to see images from that day too, but often some of my couples’ favorite photos take place before the ceremony, or in the little moments between. Having the day documented and also having formal group photos to go along with that is the key to why photography is #3 on the list.

If you think of your wedding as just a “Day” event, then food and band selection might be more important to you, but if you realize that a wedding actually will come to symbolize so much more than just one day, you’ll make decisions based your feelings in the future.