Stress rehearsal: Why I'm saying goodbye to the wedding photo checklist

April 15 | Guest post by Cynniebuns

While we have advice for the wedding photo checklist, we also recommend that sometimes you just throw it out completely…

Why you might want to take a red pen to your shot list.

I have a problem putting too much emphasis on details, and I have a tendency to be too detail-oriented. Through all this, my fiancé is like, "Why are you making simple things so complicated?" He also said at one point, "Why are you trying to cram in so many things into our wedding pictures, when you can just let things happen naturally?"

Then I remembered the last phone call with our wedding photographer, who told me that the logistics timeline I was providing is too rushed, and that it would affect the quality of work she would be providing.

Where did it go wrong?

I had wanted pictures of the bouquet toss, garter toss, cake-cutting, the first dance… Then it hit me. Pinterest and other brides' list of "photo must-haves" was killing our original vision of the wedding!

The wedding is really going to be a huge reason, finally, for our families to come together and celebrate. If I had missed elements that have been incorporated into others' weddings, it's not a big deal because this is our party.

That recent phone call with my photographer made me realize: capturing the moments as they happen takes time. That was what my photographer was trying to communicate while I was obsessing about my dream list of photo must-haves. While I was chatting to the photographer, another thing hit me — a previous co-worker's wedding advice: "The wedding day goes by so fast. Enjoy each moment."

So, remembering that, I said to my photographer, "no more photo must-haves." My fiancé and I hired a professional with a photo-journalistic approach: not intrusive, not in your face; very laid-back kind of photography.

This was a huge wake-up call, because I need to work with everyone to make this wedding as stress-free, but as fun as possible. To quote my fiancé: "Wedding planning does not have to be a stress rehearsal."

I must repeat that 10 times daily. I may also abstain from reading wedding profiles as it can put unnecessary pressure and increase my anxiety levels/expectations. Our wedding day is not a production — it's the day when our families and closest friends get together to witness us cross a threshold of life-time commitment together.

So goodbye, wedding photo checklist! Let's just get married!

What "must-haves" are you releasing to keep your wedding lower stress?

Get your daily dose of Offbeat AWESOME

  1. So, here's the thing. I interned for a photographer for a few months, and he told me that Pinterest shot lists are his pet peeve. When brides are look on Pinterest, or even on Offbeat Bride, they see all these details, and think "oh, I need detailed pictures of everything. My dress hanging in a window with the sun setting behind it? Need it." The thing is, that's not the part of your wedding that you're going to want to remember. I am all about a shot list if it includes "I want a picture with my grandparents" or "please get a shot of us walking out of the ceremony," but I agree: there is something about uber-detailed shot lists that takes away from happiness on your big day.

    12 agree
    • I agree. There's some things worth mentioning to the photographer like "my mom made the cake so it's special and important to get a photo of it" or "we definitely need a photo of my partner and all his out of town friends" but other than important info about our relstionships the photographer doesn't have, we aren't doing a shot list of poses or anything like that.

      2 agree
      • Yup, that exact notion was talked about in our shot list post: http://offbeatbride.com/2010/07/wedding-photo-shot-list

        "Yeah, I get it: I know what all the traditional shots are… tell me what's special to YOU about this wedding.
        Perhaps you DIYed your garter belt and want me to shoot it in all its glory before you fling it into the crowd, or maybe the groom made customized chucks for the wedding, or your wedding band was his great-grandmother's so those are must-have detail shots.

        3 agree
  2. I'm trying to figure out how to balance this myself! The biggest reason I can't totally throw away my shot list is that I really, really care about the formal portraits and making sure we get pictures with everyone we love.

    The problem is that this is a HUGE number of people and a lot of our family members are…lovingly difficult. For instance, it won't be enough for my future SIL that we get a formal portrait with my fiance, her parents, and her, she will want a separate formal portrait with just him. Which I totally understand! But when there are a LOT of family members in your life who all want a separate or specific formal picture, then you end up with an insane amount of formal portrait requests. And since I've never thrown a wedding before, I don't know what number is actually reasonable. (Which, I know, I'll ask my photog – but anyone else have a ballpark "reasonable" number that generally works?)

    I'd hate to say "No, Aunt Bertie, we can't have a formal portrait of just the three of us, we need to stick to family groupings only," but I feel like for time saving purposes and reducing stress, it might be necessary!

    • As a wedding photographer's assistant, I can tell you one handy dandy thing about thins kind of situation- Assign someone to gather those family groups. The photo staff is usually appreciative of shot lists when it comes to family members, but alas, we have no idea who Aunt Jane is. Having someone who is familiar with the fam will help keep things more organized and help move the process along more smoothly.
      "Reasonable" is totally subjective- it all depends on how much time you have to work with, and how long you're willing to sit for those pictures.

      2 agree
      • that is the GREATEST IDEA – Assign someone to gather the family…for the photographer…Love it! Your right – the photographer has no clue who is family…!!….

        1 agrees
    • Managing that one hour phot shoot can be a nightmare, if you appoint a "photo wrangler" (someone outside bridal party who can run and get or make announcements for needed people) just be sure to wrangle folks one or two shots ahead of them actually being "needed" so no one is waiting around from Gran to come out of the bathroom, lol!

      Couple other suggestions that might help…
      For portraits after ceremony: start with one big group and work your way down …i.e., everyone on bride's side in, snap, cousins/aunts/uncles out, snap, Grans & Gramps out, snap, etc. then reverse for Grooms side (start with parents and continue to add) then if there is time you can accommodate a few special requests.

      Others, like Groom with his Sister, can be done prior to the ceremony while your having your portraits done with your bridal party. And Aunt Betty I would probably be just as happy with a less formal snap of the three of you during the reception…if you visit tables as a couple it makes it much easier on your photographer to capture those intimate portraits.

      Good luck!

      6 agree
      • I love your large to small progression for group formal shots! How fortuitous! 🙂 We are going to see our photographer this Friday; I have been struggling on starting the list to help make the formal shots less chaotic.

  3. As someone who loves Pinterest and someone who understands respecting artistic integrity, I totally feel you on this. I do have a secret wedding photo board, and man if I don't capture my flower girl in big girl heels with curlers in her hair! Lol… No, but there is a big part of me that would want to share this collection of visions with my photographer, but I KNOW not only would they be annoyed that I (and every other Pinterest user they came across) don't trust their vision to be as good if not better, but they would also feel restricted by the cookie cutter images I'd propose, and that's not why they do what they do for a living – to be restricted by someone else's vision. That said, there are a few phenomenal concepts that I may ask for.

    And one would think the family, bridal party and couple photos would be a given, but my brother and sister in law don't have a single photo of just the two of them from their wedding. There was a food fight captured though.

    My engagement shoot idea is all over Pinterest too, but that's not where I got the idea. My photographers either haven't heard of this concept before, or are just being nice in pretending it is a novel idea. Good men.

    2 agree
  4. I'm not expecting Pinterest photos, mostly because I have serious doubts about how many of those are actual weddings and how many are styled shoots with models. At the same time, I do have certain photos I want captured. At my sister's wedding, we somehow missed getting a single shot of our immediate family – we have sibling shots and we have shots of her with our parents, but none of the whole family. After that, I trust my photographer to get pictures. I don't care so much about the centerpieces as I do that we'll be giving the kids cups of food to feed the goats and I would love pictures of that. I'm not concerned about a formal staged shot of everyone who attends, but I want pictures when we all go play with sparklers. I want pictures of the memories that will be made over portraits with strained smiles and squinty sun-filled eyes.

    3 agree
  5. Chiming in as a wedding photographer! When we have a bride who gives us a HUGE "must have" list it can really affect our ability to do our job in the most creative, yet efficient way. We're to busy crossing things off of the list! That said, we DO ask every one of our couples to give us a list of any special groups, things,or people that we might not be aware of (ie: all of the kids who grew up on Mulberry Street), and we make sure to capture them. We don't need a list of the dress, the rings, the bouquet, the family, etc., because we're professionals and we always do those! As far as Pinterest goes, we love it! We don't copy those images, but it gives us a good idea of what our couples like and we can work accordingly.

    8 agree
  6. Definitely. One thing I did when planning my wedding was, when I hit the one week mark till the day, I took my to-do list and crossed three things off. Poof. I felt so much better. You know what? I don't even remember what they were.

    I always recommend this to brides who ask me for advice.

    6 agree
  7. The only thing your photographer or videographer really wants a checklist of is ppl absolutely not to miss. Elderly, possibly sickly, grandparents coming to your wedding? Childhood best friend who now lives 2 continents away? Yeah, you should make a note to get pictures with them. Those are the kind of once-in-a-lifetime moments that you really want to capture on film (or digital or whatever). Other stuff is gravy.

    3 agree
    • Trystan – you are SO right! I'm a wedding photographer, and it always makes me laugh inside a little when I get handed a checklist that is all stuff we do anyway (I mean, what wedding photographer ISN'T going to get a photo of you walking down the aisle?). I always make sure to ask about the people – because that's the stuff we really need to know. Gravy is good – but we're already the experts on the gravy. We need to know who is important, and beyond that, let us do what you hired us to do – document the big day!

      3 agree
  8. I had planned all these fun cutesy posed pictures with us and the bridal party all around my town's art district. Come the day of the ceremony it was 90 degrees in an ancient un-air conditioned church. We got the formal family shots in order of who was not tolerating the heat (Grandparents first, flower girl and ring bearer next, parents, then bridal party) took a few pictures with just the two of us in the church, then headed to the reception. Once there we totally forgot about the photographer and partied on down!

    At the end of the honey moon I was like OMG WE FORGOT TO GET PICTURES!!!!!! Had a total melt down. You know what? The proofs came back and I have hundreds of beautiful wonderful amazing pictures of our wedding, and wedding guests…no simultaneous jumping needed!

    4 agree
  9. Thank God I am not the only one going through this issue…!!! I seriously need a JUMBO red sharpie to eliminate over details of our wedding in August 2014…. Working in the wedding industry I get caught up with EVERYTHING I would want to do, how to style/stage all the little details. It almost lead to eloping in Lake Tahoe. Which still wouldn't be bad, but my wonderful fiance talked me out of it. We would have some pretty pissed off moms (lol). Cheers!

  10. We didn't have a list and I thought our photographer had it all sussed. But it wasn't until later (read afterwards) that I realised a couple of the shots I really wanted never got taken. (ones of us with my just my parents and just his parents.)

    So I think if there are ones you have you heart set on definitely give your photographer a list but otherwise just go with the flow.

    1 agrees
  11. As a Pro Wedding Photographer is would be nice to not have checklists. However, the day belongs to the couple and they pay your fee. One particular young lady called me a few days before the wedding and said "I have a FEW shoots I would like to have done, will that be OK". "Of course" I replied.
    On the big day we met the bride as she was having her hair done. She said I have done a small list for you. This LIST was 5 sheets of A4 paper covered in groups of people she wanted photographs with. This list took so long to get through we ran out of time for anything else. Be careful of being to obliging.

    1 agrees

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.