5 tips for a stress-free getting ready

Would you love some practical tips for a smooth, beautiful, and fun time getting ready for your wedding?

The getting ready part of the day can end up producing some of your favorite wedding photos. You may think of the getting ready as just that - getting ready. The bride and her wedding party are putting on makeup and getting dressed. How interesting or important can that be?

A good photographer will capture more than a bride in curlers. This is when the bride and groom tend to be surrounded by family and friends, sharing candid moments. These are the last moments the bride and groom will have with their loved ones as a single woman or man. The excitement and anticipation in the air are magic. Here (after the curlers are out) is where the photographer captures beautiful bridal portraits - the bride in her dress, her lovely face, the bride and her mother, the bride and her best friends. 

But... the getting ready part of the day also has the potential to be semi-disasterous, not just for the photography but for the wedding as a whole. Hair and makeup run behind. The bride throws on her dress and runs out the door, late to her own ceremony. No nice portraits with mom happen. No gorgeous photos of the bride in the dress she saved for months to buy. The bride is stressed out, and so is everybody else. Yes, photos of the bride and her dress can and will be taken later, but it's not the same. The bride and groom look different before and after they are married. Capturing both sides of the day makes for a much more complete wedding story for you to look back on when you receive your photos. 

Also, a smooth getting ready can lead into a smooth wedding day overall. And who doesn't want less stress on their wedding day? Here are five tips for making it happen:

1. Allow enough time

You'll need at least two hours for your hair and makeup. Hair and makeup don't happen at the same time. There is hair and then there is makeup, or vice versa. Your makeup artist and your hairdresser each need their own time.

Ask your hairdresser and makeup artist how long they each need, add it together and then add another hour. (Hair dressers and makeup artists have been known to show up late. Things happen. Plan for it.)

You'll also need about a half an hour to get your dress on. Some dresses zip on in a minute. Many do not. This also includes time to have your mom or maid of honor help you with your jewelry and veil, which are great photo opportunities. But it does slightly slow down the process of getting dressed. Thus the need for 30 minutes.

If your bridesmaids will also be getting hair and makeup done, allow time for this.

Then allow at least a half an hour for portraits. This includes you in your fabulous dress, you and your mom, you and your bridesmaids.

Then allow a half an hour to get to your next location, either your ceremony or your first look. 

Total time: at least 4.5 hours! 

You're going to doubt me on this. But every wedding I've photographed (except one) has had the bride crunched on time and stressed out during the getting ready because she didn't think that much time would be needed. The only bride who was on time was a professional makeup artist who did her own makeup. I pass this on to help you avoid the stress they felt.

If somehow everything runs ahead of schedule, then we have extra time for photos. And maybe a drive through Starbucks. Yay!

2. Go first

Sometimes makeup artists and hairdressers like to do the whole bridal party first and the bride last. This is not good for your photos. We can only take so many photos of the bridesmaids without you. But we can take a lot of photos of you without your bridesmaids.

Be the first to be ready and have your mom be the next up. Then your bridesmaids, possibly starting with your maid of honor. As each lady is finished, she can be photographed. While the bridal party is getting ready, we can photograph you by yourself in your dress and then with your mother and then you with each bridesmaid as she gets ready. 

And then you can EAT something. 

3. Have a clean zone

This one is not as critical as the first two but can be nice.  The place you have for getting ready is going to be a mess. It's full of women trying to get dressed. There are bags and hangers and suitcases and junk everywhere. None of this looks particularly sterling in photographs. So it's great if you can have another room or a tidy corner for photos. The room needs to have a window if at all possible.

This is less critical than the other two points because regardless of how bad your getting ready room looks, I can usually find some great window light and straighten up an area for you. Many of my weddings have been shot in tiny New York City apartments with the bride inches away from an exercise bike and a pile of shower gifts. The ability to make a getting ready look beautiful is my mutant power.

4. Have your details together

This also is less critical but helpful. It saves time if your shoes, rings, flowers, veil, jewelry, dress and any other details you want photographed are in the same general place. Gathering these up is something I can do for you. But if you have them all in one place, it allows time for more photos and it helps you to feel together.

5. Wear something cute

This is also optional but can make a difference. Your Hello Kitty t-shirt and sweats may be adorable and comfy to wear while your hair and makeup are being done. But they don't look that great in photos. A cute little robe or dress can be far more photogenic. 

I hope these tips, especially tip number 1, will help brides have a fun and stress-free time getting ready for your wedding. 

There are no tips for the guys because the guys will sit around and watch Animal Planet until just before I show up and then they will get dressed in five minutes. 

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