The Getting Ready Guide (For Best Wedding Photos)

The morning of a wedding is one of my favorite parts of the day. There's an electricity in the air, the kind that only comes from intense joy and excitement (and that really good playlist your friends made you). All of this makes for really beautiful photos, especially the storytelling kind. 

I can say that some of my best memories come from the morning of my own wedding when it was just me with my mom, sister and best friends from college drinking endless cups of coffee, dancing and getting hair and make-up started. These moments are incredible to document, no matter what you choose. Some weddings start with a huge brunch for the bridal party, others with sunrise yoga or a morning hike and some with a slow morning at home. More than anything, these moments need to be entirely you and no matter how you start your day, it's going to be amazing. By no means is this guide a list of "have-tos" - my hope is that it serves as an aid to help us work together to make the most beautiful getting ready photos for you that we can.


1. Lighting

One of the questions I'm asked the most is where lighting is best throughout the entire wedding day - but especially in the getting ready moments. It's common for the bridal party to get ready in a hotel room, a bedroom or a kitchen and while this makes sense for space, good lighting is often hard to find in these places. (For tips on lighting for your entire wedding day, feel free to wander over to my lighting guide which goes more into depth on all of this!)

getting-ready-tips-wedding-day

The most ideal situation is that there are two windows in the room on different sides so that the whole room is lit well (and that also helps me get those great candid shots of your best people sipping mimosas and hanging out on the couch). The farther you are from a window, the harder the light is to work with. That being said, I completely understand that this isn't feasible for every wedding. Regardless of what the room is like, the bride should have her hair and make-up done (if at all possible) next to a window. I can't stress enough how important this is - and I'll have her put on her dress next to a window, and the veil, and the shoes, everything. 

After communicating with your hair and make-up artists, I almost always keep all lights in the room off so that the gorgeous natural light from the window can fill the room in a beautiful way. No one wants that ugly yellow or orange glow around their face that so many overhead lights in places like hotel rooms/salons can cause. 

getting-ready-photo-tips-wedding

Pretty light like this also gives us so many more opportunities to take some gorgeous bridal portraits after the getting ready process is finished. (Jesse and Lacey's wedding in northeast Minneapolis was one of my favorite getting ready locations I've ever had - see their full wedding here for photo inspiration!)

To sum up, the worst places for lighting in getting ready locations will always be in a dark room with no natural light source (ie, a window) OR in a situation where the bride/bridal party is positioned away from the windows in a darker corner. 

2. Location

As I said above, it makes so much sense that so many people traditionally choose to get ready in hotel rooms and odd rooms of their homes because it makes logistical sense (ie, there's more space or there are more outlets in the bathroom). I completely understand this and no matter the getting ready location, we will work with it. 

That being said, in my experience the best getting ready locations are ones with good lighting (see above!) and unique locations. Why not look and see if you can find an Airbnb close to your venue instead of staying at a standard hotel? Airbnbs can really give so much character to the first half of your day (which typically includes your detail photos, getting ready photos and sometimes even bridal portraits). Typically they're even less expensive than hotels and way more fun to spend the night before in. 

Finally, if you invest time into finding a great getting ready location, make sure the clutter of the morning is at least somewhat contained. No one wants to see suitcases, make-up bags and clothes everywhere in their wedding photos. I'm not saying every inch of space needs to be picture perfect, just try to keep it "real life" while also being mindful of mess throughout your getting ready space. 

getting-ready-photo-tips-wedding-photography

Another option would be asking a friend or family member who owns or has access to a beautiful space with natural light if you can borrow their house/apartment/studio for the morning. If you're wondering about whether a space is well lit, feel free to reach out! I'd love to talk with you and help in any way that I can. 

And sometimes there are hidden gems for getting ready locations in your own home - if you have rooms that are well-lit, large windows and a clean looking setting (white walls are a plus!) or even a nice screened in porch (see image below!) these can be incredible locations for your wedding day that you already have access to. 

best-getting-ready-photo-tips-wedding

3. Hair and make-up

Hair and make-up running late is the number one stressor on a wedding day. Running late so early in the day can push the entire timeline back a full hour or more. What suffers then are your photos - photo time is crunched into a tiny space that doesn't allow us all of the time we need. At times, I've seen hair and make-up go a full two hours later than planned. 

How to avoid this? Hire a professional to do your hair and make-up. They're much more apt to stick to the day of timeline and they know exactly what they're doing. The last thing you want to be concerned about on your wedding day is whether your make-up and hair looks like you want it to, and with good professionals, it absolutely will.

Finally, add in some extra time for you to relax and enjoy your morning, because it's your wedding and you should do exactly what you want to do before the day actually starts. One of the biggest things I stress to my clients is that your wedding day shouldn't be a like a photoshoot - it should be your celebration, with your people, and I'll be there to document everything as the day unfolds. If you have a favorite place to get lunch, plan time to grab lunch with the people you want to spend time with the most. If you're into hiking, go on a morning hike before you get ready - grab that extra cup of coffee - take time to do your favorite yoga practice - make this time of day uniquely yours and I promise you won't regret a second of it. 


I so hope this getting ready guide was both informative and helpful - feel free to drop me an email at nicola@nicolaharger.com with any questions!

I'm always here to help.