Behind the Lens: Rachel’s 17 Top Wedding Tips

A wedding photographer’s eye notices more than great light and endearing candid opportunities; we see what makes the big day run smoothly. I have captured many types of weddings here in Key West, but some advice always holds true. Over ten years of wedding photography has taught me countless lessons, but I’ve “narrowed” them down for you to my favorite 17. 

Please enjoy the following tried-and-true wedding photo tips for Key West brides and grooms!

1. Hire a Wedding Coordinator

A wedding planner on your team is well worth the cost! Even for simple weddings, logistics can be way too much for a bride to handle and feel as present and carefree as a bride should. Their whole purpose is to make both the planning process and your wedding day as breezy as possible. You’ll get to revel in enjoying your big day rather than stressing about the details, and you won’t have to worry about vendors coming to you with questions or issues!

There are typically two kinds of wedding planning: full-service and day-of/month-of. Especially if you’re busy or not a local, full-service is the ultimate if you’d like a professional to handle everything, from start to finish, based on your vision. If you’re gung-ho about doing most of the planning, day-of/month-of planning makes sure your hard work is carried out smoothly, giving you utter peace of mind on your wedding day. Thanks to a wedding planner, everyone can be more relaxed including the photographer, which helps in capturing romantic, candid photos! 

2. Get your Gown and Suit Pressed

Not every wedding ensemble will need it, but many will require some TLC after a long journey to the Conch Republic. I highly recommend Jessica Pritchard at Steam Queen, who caters specifically to weddings and provides top-notch quality and service. Also, her hassle-free process includes pickup and delivery, and she can include steaming for the parents and/or wedding party, so you don't have to worry! 

3. Get a Wedding Dress Hanger

A plain hanger just doesn’t do justice to a beautiful wedding dress. Ordering a special hanger for your gown gives a festive touch to your day-of photos. Etsy has plenty of options for affordable, custom bridal hangers. They're also a great idea for the guys!

4. Consider Matching Getting-Ready Outfits

A fun thing to do is giving your bridesmaids robes for the getting ready process! The vast majority of my bridal clients here in Key West get ready on location, so these thoughtful gifts create cohesive photo ops. Tie-front robes or button down shirts are practical too – no smeared makeup or mussed hair. You can find matching robes or shirts on Etsy. And don’t forget about the moms

5. Don’t Forget Transportation

Your wedding day will involve getting from Point A to Point B, and possibly C and D! Make sure to plan for the transportation logistics as well as the necessary travel time. I recommend Keys Limo, Old Town Trolley for an especially unique experience, or Key Lime Taxi (for smaller weddings).

6. Hold Your Bouquet Lower

The stereotypical bouquet positioning of “vertical at chest height” is actually not very flattering. Instead, hold your bouquet lower, around belly button height, with the flowers facing out and stems towards you. This may feel awkward at first, but it will look more natural in photos and will show off of your beautiful bouquet better!

7. Adjust your Hand Pose

Avoid spreading your fingers - such as on your hip or fiancé’s shoulder - when posing for photos. This creates what I call an unfortunate ‘monkey hands’ look, especially for those with hands on the smaller side. Keeping your fingers together looks much more elegant.

8. No Hairbands! 

Bridal party wrists should be a hair tie-free zone. You don’t want unplanned accessories sneaking into photos (and saddling your photographer with hours of extra photoshop work). Banning hair ties will help your wedding photos look significantly more timeless and polished. 

9. Book Enough Time with your Photographer

At a minimum, plan to professionally capture the getting ready process through the first dance. If you’re on the fence, err on the side of incorporating a buffer into the schedule. Just in case you encounter an unplanned delay, your photographer still will have enough to capture all of the highlights. There is no need to be rushed, anxious, or distracted by logistics when you should be focusing on much more exciting feelings!

10. Get your Hair and Makeup Professionally done

Lower your stress by relying on a beauty professional! Key West has many terrific options, and I’m always happy to recommend trusted vendors. Don’t worry if you can’t swing a trial run before your Key West destination wedding. Reviews, personal references, and pictures from the artist’s portfolio are excellent resources. 

If you’re comfortable handling your own makeup, just remember to factor in Key West’s heat and humidity. Primer and setting spray can be valuable additions to your day-of routine. During the actual photo session, I will always have blotting sheets at the ready! 

11. Enjoy a Peaceful Moment before Walking Down the Aisle

Take a minute for solo reflection or hugs with your inner circle. Pause to appreciate the true significance of the occasion. This is such a whirlwind day, and it can be easy to forget that you are embarking on a momentous, amazing journey. Allow yourself time to slow down and soak it all in.

12. Look at the Photographer at Least Once while Walking down the Aisle

Your gaze probably will be drawn to your groom and loved ones – as it should be! However, for the memories you’ll reflect upon after the big day, make a conscious effort to glance towards your photographer for a special ‘action shot.’ You may want to suggest this your wedding party too.  

13. Take Advantage of the Key West Sunset!

Plan time with your photographer at sunset. After all, this is Key West, and we are known for this spectacular daily event! And no matter where you are getting married, this is the best part of the day for a few pictures. Be sure to look up sunset timing for your big day. Here in Key West, it falls between 5:38 pm and 8:20 pm based on the season.

14. Consider a "First Look"

If you want to minimize photo-taking during cocktail hour, consider planning a “First Look” when the couple sees each other before the ceremony. This intimate ritual is a great opportunity to get a few formal couple shots before everything gets started. 

15. Talk with your Photographer about Exit Photos

Coordinate the exact location and timing of your exit, allowing for adequate time before the venue closes. Give your photographer a heads up about any closing festivities - confetti, sparklers, bubbles, etc. - to ensure optimal end-of-night photos.

16. Hydrate and Nourish

As you already know, Key West can be very hot and humid! Beat the heat by drinking water throughout the day, and keep yourself fueled with some sustenance! Make sure there are plenty of water bottles (or cups and water jugs) on hand for the whole bridal party. Stay energized with hearty snacks like energy bars and veggies. They’re also useful for soaking up any pre-ceremony champagne. 

Also, take the time to enjoy your own wedding food during the reception! Odds are that you’ve spent hours carefully choosing this meal. You deserve to have your cake (or Key lime pie) and eat it too! 

17. Most Importantly, Breathe!

This is your day – enjoy it! You are making memories that will last a lifetime. Be prepared to deviate from the plan and roll with any changes. The best weddings are “perfectly imperfect.” You’ve spent months planning this day. When it finally comes, your main job is to relax and have a blast celebrating with your spouse and loved ones!


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