The bride steps into her wedding gown. Her mother and a coterie of bridesmaids assist her with the final touches on her hair and makeup. They primp and preen at her gown, perhaps contributing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
Today, the vast majority of brides invite their photographer to document the “getting ready” period, and for good reason.
Getting ready can be a monumental task for the bride and her entourage, and an event in itself. It’s a time not only during which the women share their excitement and happiness, but also one in which they can smooth out any bumps in the road that may arise, from mending an ill-fitting wedding gown to soothing an overwhelmed bride. The application of cosmetic agents, hair, skin, nail, and other treatments, final tuning of clothing and accessories; this seemingly endless array of beauty products and treatments makes for a very hectic and intense prep session.
Not until recent years has it become de rigueur for the wedding photographer to be present while the bride gets ready for the ceremony. Yet the outflow of elation, anxiety, nostalgia and hope that accompany these activities create an ideal time for your wedding photojournalist to capture those timeless moments.
Fortunately, WPJA members are veterans in skillfully observing and documenting what exactly happens behind the dressing room doors—from the trials and tribulations, to the triumphs. Their experience makes them uncommonly aware of and sensitive towards the rituals and emotions of bridal party preparation, and well-equipped to capture wonderful images without getting in the way.
THE RINGLEADER AND HER CREW
The time spent getting ready is filled with a wealth of emotions. Precisely what type of emotions, from good to bad to downright ugly, is entirely dependent on the bride. She sets the tone in the room. Ideally, she will be “in the zone,” riding a wave of excitement and positive vibes. But every wave has an undertow.
Based on our WPJA photographers’ insights, the majority of brides are in this “zone.” They’re in control and having a wonderful time as they prepare for their wedding. The photographer moves about the room capturing the bride talking and laughing with her bridesmaids and close relatives. She’s natural and jubilant, and that comes across in the pictures.
On the other hand, there are those brides who are overwhelmed by emotion and close to having a panic attack. WPJA members are also veterans in handling these types of pre-ceremony jitters. Many a photojournalist has found themselves consoling the bride, assuring her that her feelings are completely natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes the soothing hand of an outsider can help walk a bride back from the edge.
Bridesmaids also play an integral role in keeping everything running smoothly. And this can include taking on crisis management duties. If the flowers arrive a few bouquets short, or the limo gets lost on the way to get the wedding party, the bride’s best friends are there to calm nerves and stay upbeat while helping to find solutions. The mood in the room stays positive and the photographer is able to get those emblematic photos.
There is perhaps no single element of the wedding prep more important than the donning of the bridal gown. The dress’s legendary symbolism has given it an elevated stature in the annals of wedding day successes. But the gown isn’t always a willing partner. Wedding history books are filled with endless pages of blistering buttons, tremoring zippers, and wincing gussets. Trying on that dress on the morning of the big show can be an exercise in ambition and raw grit.
Many brides spend months prior to the wedding focused on the solitary goal of losing weight. They want to look their best for their big day, and often that means fitting into a dress that may be smaller than what they typically wear. Of course, their fear is that they won’t be able to fit into the gown when the day of reckoning arrives.
For some, that fear is fully realized. Pushing, prodding and a little bit of praying to the corset gods is not an uncommon experience. Fortunately, this embroidered siege can also provide for some memorable imagery. Because in the end, once you’re strapped in and buttoned down, no one will be any wiser to the Newtonian mechanics used to create that striking vision of beauty.
With so much going on during the getting ready period, many photographers simply need to be present in order to capture those wonderful timeless expressions. And when the photographer shows up unexpectedly, great pictures can also result. Several award-winning images have come by way of impromptu drop-ins, and WPJA members have a knack for sensing when priceless unscripted moments are about to come down.
The number of people in the wedding prep rooms also can have an impact on the dynamics of these moments. When the room is full of bustling action, a sort of frenetic energy can seep through the lens. While conversely, a quiet space with just the bride and one or two friends affords more potential for intimate, serene moments.
Of course, children and spontaneity often go hand in hand at weddings. If a young relative or a flower girl happens to be in the mix during the bride’s preparations, there’s a prime window for some great pictures. The wonderful thing about young kids is that they are less inhibited, less guarded of their feelings, and are more likely to provide memorable moments through their interactions with the day’s events (whether good or bad!).
A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE
It’s always important for the bride to stay relaxed and at ease during the final moments before she walks down the aisle. A good way to do so is to have people around who make you feel calm. Having helpers to do the things you don’t necessarily need to do yourself is a great way to keep from feeling over-scheduled. And it will also provide you with more time to just reflect and take in the moment.
As with much of the day, time is of the essence. Ideally, a bride should give herself at least an hour for preparation. Too little time can create a stressed-out mood.
Ultimately, it’s all about the bride enjoying herself. Letting friends and loved ones help take care of things and always keeping an open mind will pay off big when things unexpectedly go a little South. Brides should stay focused on what’s truly important and take everything else with a healthy grain of salt. With this in mind, you can’t help but have a great wedding.
Indeed. A little perspective can go a long way during the early hours of the big day, as well as help complete the larger story. When the bridal march is blaring through the speakers and the bride is walking down the aisle, the gasps and wide smiles across the room will attest to her beauty. Thanks to the great wedding photojournalist backstage, everyone (including the groom, who may have been far from that scene) can have an idea as to what took place to bring her to that radiant moment.