Dips to toasts: 9 things your wedding photographer NEEDS to know before your wedding

Guest post by Rebecca Ellison  
Photos by: Rebecca Ellison Photography

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Dips to toasts: 9 things your wedding photographer NEEDS to know before your wedding
All photos by Rebecca Ellison Photography

As a wedding photographerThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them, I want to know all the events and details of someone's wedding day beforehand. The more I know, the more I capture what is important. I care about what couples care about, as that's how I make sure to capture the event in a way that is going to make them love looking at their wedding images. I want couples to be able to remember all the most important parts of the day… That's why they need to tell me about all those details, in detail!

After working 200+ weddings, I have a pretty good gauge on what is likely to happen on most wedding days… but there are times when details don't get shared with me before hand, and I get caught off guard. I want to make sure I catch the surprise Star Wars entrance, the singing toast from the best man, and all the meticulously crafted DIY details.

Here are 9 things your wedding photographer needs to know about before your wedding…

Dips to toasts: 9 things your wedding photographer NEEDS to know before your wedding

DIY details

Let's be real, it took quite a bit of time for you to plan and execute those DIY details. Whether you went DIY to save money, or because you had a craft itch to scratch, it's important your photographer knows what is DIY so we can make sure to get great photos of it.

You don't want to have spent all those hours on those centerpieces, just for the wedding to pass, you have now gotten rid of them and you have no photos of how your hard work turned out!


Any heirloom that will be at your wedding for any reason, I want to know about it. it could be your grandma's pearl necklace, your great grandma's wedding dress lace on your bouquet, or the handkerchief in the ring box. If we know about it, we can make sure to capture it, and that means you'll have beautiful images to continue sharing the story and the custom of that heirloom.

Family politics

Oh man, this one is a BIG one. I need to know your family dirt so that I know how to navigate your day. You don't want me to ask your mom and dad to get close for a photo if they've been on the outs for 20+ years and can't stand to even look at each other. Trust me… it can happen if I am not in the know.

I don't need to know the whys of the politics, but I want to know if your parents are together or not, if they like each other, and if you don't care for your brother's girlfriend as you know she won't be around long. I want to know which of your bridal party is likely to irritate you, and also which aunt is your favorite. I want to know if your stepdad isn't super important for the photos because you don't really know him all that well.

I've got a surprising amount of power over your family during the family portraits

If I know about these details, I know which people to keep apart during photos (subtly of course!) and which to focus on. I want to capture the people you care deeply about while also helping to keep sticky situations from feeling sticky.

I've got a surprising amount of power over your family during the family portraits part of the day, and I can be your ally to make sure it goes smoothly and no bumps are felt. I just need to be in the know beforehand.

Any staged entrance or exits

Want to dance back down the aisle, or dance in for your grand entrance to the reception? Make sure I know so that I can be ready with the right gear to capture any shenanigans that may happen. You'll thank me later, I promise!

Toasts mid-dinner

This is especially important since dinner time for you is also dinner time for us.

Usually, speaking toasts happen at the end of dinner and so that is what is expected. It's okay if you change it up, but let us know if you plan on doing the thank-you toast before dinner, or have toasts happen interspersed through dinner. We are there and will capture it if we know what to expect.

This is especially important since dinner time for you is also dinner time for us. It's literally the first time we've stopped in hours, and will be the only 10 minutes we sit for the entire day we are photographing you. When a toast happens in the middle of dinner, and we are not aware of it beforehand, then we have to rush as we are eating, usually in a different room. If we know it's happening, we'll be there!

Dips to toasts: 9 things your wedding photographer NEEDS to know before your wedding

Choreographed dances

If you've gone to the effort of paying for dance lessons or choreographed your first dance or father/daughter dance and you are excited to wow your guests with it all, make sure your photographer is in on the secret.

We want to make sure we've lit the dance floor in a way that will really look great for what you've planned, and that we are in the right place at the right time. Let us know what way you are going to start and also what direction you'll be in when you end so we can get your bow and smiles.

Dips to toasts: 9 things your wedding photographer NEEDS to know before your wedding


I love a good dip, but honestly, nothing makes me more frustrated than being in the wrong place and being surprised by a dip in your dance. I want to be in a position where I can see the dipper and the dipped (not just the back of your heads!)

There is literally only one good spot to be in when a dip happens to photograph it well, and I want to be in that spot, so make sure I know if a dip is coming!

Grand exit

Are you planning on a sparkler exit, or bubbles, or seeds? If you are planning on any type of grand exit, make sure your photographer knows so we can talk about if you want us to stay until then or not. One of the reasons I do "all day" coverage is so that if you have a grand exit planned and it's important to you, I can stay to capture it without it costing you extra. Grand exits are a great ending to your wedding album as well.

Surprises for any kind

If there is something happening on the wedding day that will be a surprise to anyone, you should make sure I know about it beforehand. I'm a super fabulous secret keeper, I promise. And knowing these secrets makes sure I am there and ready to capture the excitement when it happens.

Whether the secret is a gift to each other, or that you are walking into your reception with a full-size Chewbacca cut-out, I need to know.

It may be hard to gather up all these details, but it's well worth it. You can find a photography shot list in our big wedding spreadsheets that can help you list out all the details and events you want to make sure are captured.

Thanks again to Set Ready Garment Bags for sponsoring Offbeat Bride this week!

  1. Great article! As a wedding photographer myself, I would add the song length for any special dances. I have photographed a few weddings this year where the song for the dance was extremely short. I generally like to get a few angles for the special dances, and I need to know ahead of time if this won't be possible.

    Lastly, I would add any special details for the ceremony including a specific ritual (sand, salt, etc.) or any changes to the procession/recession (both parents walking the groom down the aisle, etc.).

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