Shooting Lara and Matt’s wedding was a total dream come true for me as a photographer. But it was even more of a dream come true for Matt, who was a Fulbright Scholar in Photography. On his wedding day he got to marry the girl of his dreams, lovely Lara, and it was my job to get them the images he would want to take if he could photograph it himself. With his in-depth knowledge of photography, Matt was worried it would be a tall order. First off he always preferred to be behind the lens, not in front of it. Next hurdle, Lara and Matt were getting ready at a hotel that they thought would offer no scenic backdrops for their big reveal and bridal portraits. Even if we found a nice backdrop, due to the time of the ceremony, the family formal shots would have to take place during the harsh midday sun. And lastly, as is so often the case with many of my couples, mobility issues were a concern for the family formals. High heels, layers of crinoline, long wedding dress trains, canes, and walkers usually keep long walks from a hotel out of the cards. I told Lara and Matt not to worry. With proper planning we would make it work, and make it work we did! It went from what Matt thought would be a photographer’s nightmare to being one of my favorite weddings to shoot ever.
I assured Matt that on your wedding day you are so overcome with emotion that looking comfortable in photos really isn’t too much of a problem, especially if we focus more on candid shots than posed ones. The love Lara and Matt have for each other is so strong that it was palpable right through the lenses of our cameras. Witnessing their total devotion to one another and the looks of pure bliss brought me to tears multiple times that day. There was no way we could possibly take a bad shot of them when they were so happy and in tune with one another. They compliment each other perfectly. What we captured that day was really just Lara and Matt being Lara and Matt. That same sweetness can be seen every day in even the smallest interaction with each other. We just happened to put them in some really beautiful light for the shots. For the posed formals we made sure to look at Matt’s “camera smile” in advance. He had the tendency to do what many people do when they are uncomfortable in front of the camera, smile while clenching their teeth. This results in a totally unnatural looking smile that looks strained and forced. To avoid this “I’d rather be shot than have my photo taken” smile all you have to do is relax your mouth and smile. If your molars are touching you aren’t doing it correctly. Practice it in the mirror a few times before your wedding day. Also determine if you like your smile better showing teeth or not showing teeth. That way it just comes natural to you on your wedding day and you aren’t left going, wait should I smile with teeth or not. The same rule for not clenching your teeth goes for smiles without teeth and with teeth.
When it came to the backdrops for the big reveal and portraits we had to get a little more creative. To ensure we had the best spots possible Lara and Matt chose to do their engagement shoot a few weeks before the wedding at the same locations we were planning on using on their wedding day and at the exact same time of day as well. This ensured that we’d know exactly where the sun would be that day. What most couples don’t understand when picking a spot for photos is that the MOST important element of all is the LIGHT. Unless you want all your photos to be sweeping dramatic environmental portraits where you are only a tiny fraction of the photo then the background elements aren’t as important because most shots are close-ups where the background blurs out. As photographers we can take stunning shots of you in beautiful light in a spot you would probably never think of as “photo-worthy” but will have next to no ability to take even a decent photo of you if you are standing in a stunning location but in terrible light. So when others might have been very discouraged to see these images from google maps for their hotel, I was excited. While the newly renovated Holiday Inn didn’t have much landscaping, it did have an abundance of natural forestry, a wetland section with some cattails, a small wood shed, and an Italian restaurant that had some architectural features that were Tuscan inspired. Each of these elements provided the much sought after open shade photographers LOVE to shoot in. The restaurant was closed during the time we were going to shoot so we had the whole space to ourselves, which was a refreshing change from shooting in the always busy Boston Public Gardens. To boot these spots were a short walking distance from the Holiday Inn and easily drivable for the rental mini-van that Lara and Matt had on site that brilliantly provided an air-conditioned haven for Lara while I set up for the big reveal and for their families while we set up the family formals. The light here was so wonderful to shoot in, both inside the hotel rooms and outside, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to suggest to a couple that they get ready there. We finished off our bridal portrait session with a rather unusual shot…in front of the garbage bins that were only a few mere feet away from the wood shed. Matt asked for the shot because he said if we didn’t take a shot there no one would ever believe that all the shots were taken in a parking lot and with time to spare. So if you are trying to figure out where to do your big reveal and family portraits always pick a spot that is convenient and has beautiful light (as defined by your photographer) over one that may be traditionally pretty but will cause you tons of added stress to get to. That stress will show on your faces and you’ll even have less time to take photos.
Speaking of timing that was the other thing that Lara and Matt did so very well to make their day a dream come true. They made a realistic plan for the day that thoughtfully took their bridal party and guests into consideration. Lara realized that the bridal party would be getting ready with them in the morning and would have no lunch between then and the wedding dinner. So they had boxed lunches ready for the guys, a sit down buffet lunch for the girls (as well as myself, my second shooter Jenn Alton, and the videographers from Waves Media) and a buffet lunch for their guests that had flown in for the wedding and were staying at the hotel as well. Lunch is usually completely overlooked on the super busy wedding day, so it was such a pleasure for everyone to get to take a little break before the ceremony. Since so many of their guests had flown in from far distances, Matt and Lara felt it was very important to do a full receiving line after their ceremony at the church. Normally I heavily advise against a receiving line because they can take up so much time: think about it, if you spend only 20 seconds speaking to each guest and you have over 150 guests that is 50 minutes right there. We took this into account when making the schedule for the day together and that is why we did the family formals prior to the ceremony. Lara and Matt knew in advance that any additional time we might have to take shots in the lush garden at the Barker Tavern or the iconic Scituate Lighthouse would be a bonus, not something to count on. In the end, they wisely elected to only do a few shots in the garden so that they could relax and enjoy the rest of the cocktail hour with their guests, instead of cramming in a few extra harried shots at the lighthouse.
These are just a few of the reasons why shooting Lara and Matt’s wedding was such a dream come true for me as a photographer. Credit also needs to go out to several others. David and his team from Waves Media were such a great group to work. Matt and Lara had explicitly told them that photography was their biggest priority so he made sure to check with me to make sure he wasn’t in any of my shots, and Jenn and I did our best to return the favor. Geraniums Red, Delphiniums Blue made a stunning bouquet for Lara. Grace from blushing brides made Lara look like a perfect porcelain doll and her hair stayed perfectly in place the entire day. One of Grace’s girls even stuck around to touch up Lara’s makeup right before they left for the ceremony. A giant thank you goes out to Matt and Lara. They trusted me implicitly. Everything I suggested they did it and then some. Matt had the invitations and paper goods in binders for me and Jenn. Lara had every detail item I had asked to photograph in advance set aside in boxes for me. Lara got into her dress in her parents room, which they had kept immaculate, instead of in the bridal suite so that I wouldn’t have to take valuable time away from shooting to declutter the room. Lara and Matt made me feel like a long time friend instead of just a wedding vendor. It is that type of bond with my couples that I truly cherish. Thank you Lara and Matt for making your dream wedding a dream come true for me as well.