Brilliant photography on your wedding day

Brilliant photography on your wedding day

My good friend, Louisa Coulthurst, of Urban Bridesmaid Photography, has been kind enough to submit a blog this week. She’s a great person to tell you how to secure brilliant photography for your big day.

Take it away, Louisa!

Before booking the wedding venue

When checking out potential wedding venues, talk to the venue about their photography policy rules and the restriction it may have on your ceremony. For instance, some churches and some registrars do not allow photography of the ceremony, and some churches only allow photography from the back or side of the aisle. Another issue to consider: if you have a two-venue wedding (separate ceremony and reception locations) and you want to go to the local park to grab some photographs, a lot of parks now (royal borough or otherwise) require a photography permit which can cost up to £80.

Another thing to note if you are planning a winter wedding is the timing of your wedding ceremony; your ceremony could finish by the time it is dark. In this case if you are wanting/planning to have outdoor group shots, you may wish to have them before the ceremony or jiggle the time of the ceremony.

Once you have booked your wedding venue and your wedding date is set, start looking for your wedding photographer. The reasoning behind this that often wedding photographers get booked up quite far in advance, especially on key summer dates (such as in the school summer holidays July/August)

Wedding Photography Budget

A rough rule of thumb is that you should aim to allocate roughly 10% of your overall wedding budget to spend on a wedding photographer. Whilst this might not be practical or even feasible for some couples, in all cases try to get THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY you can for your budget when choosing a wedding photographer. After all, the photographs, along with your spouse and wedding rings will be the only lasting memories from the big day! Products such as albums can be purchased after the wedding day, but you can’t go back and redo the day!


Meeting the wedding photographer in person

You have searched the internet, checked photographers’ websites and Instagram, seen some Facebook ads and shortlisted a few wedding photographers whose work you love. You have contacted them and – result – they are free on your wedding date, so what next? The next stage is to arrange a meeting with a few of them. This is to see their work in person and see how it looks printed in an album. You can also see a couple of whole weddings (start to finish) as delivered to the client to judge if their work is consistent throughout the whole day. How does the photographer deal with dark venues, bad weather? Are there only a few great shots and the rest blah? It is also to get a feel about their personality – after all, they will be round you all day and you want to find someone who you feel comfortable around, as it will reflect in the photos. You might want a photographer who is very discreet and you hardly notice they are there, for instance.

Booking the Photographer

Once you have met with a few photographers, you should have a clearer picture of whom you would like to book.

Make sure that the paperwork (contracts) is all in order, note when the final payment is due and when you will receive your photographs and what format (e.g. high resolution images on a USB). Sign the contract and pay the booking fee to confirm your wedding date with the photographer.

On Your Wedding Day

Relax and enjoy the day and let your wedding photographer do their magic!

Group Shots

If you would like to have a few group shots with your family, please indicate this to your wedding photographer beforehand and draw up a list. Group shots do not have to take hours – every guests’ nightmare! To speed up the process of group shots, make a list of a maximum of 6 essential groups (immediate family/friends). As a guide, each grouping takes about 3-5 minutes to set up (getting family into position) and execute (not counting the photographer taking two or three of the same grouping in case of any of the group blinks). And if you don’t want group shots at all- don’t have them! Hire a photographer who is skilled at capturing candid moments! Also don’t forget to take some couple alone shots, as this is the time that gets squeezed the most.

Louisa is a South East London based wedding photographer. Couples have been choosing Urban Bridesmaid Photography for Louisa’s unobtrusive wedding photography style and attention to detail. As a photographer who will observe and capture the day as it happens, whilst staying in the background, Louisa is able to take photographs which are not dull or boring, capturing bride, groom and guests looking natural and at ease!

Company Name: Urban Bridesmaid Photography

Website address:

Phone: 07956 531 508



I’m sure you’ve enjoyed Louisa’s article and found it useful. I’ll be back next week, but, if you want some more guest blogs, then let me know (and I won’t be offended!). I’ve got another one lined up for March …

Rules for Wedding Guests

Rules for Wedding Guests

With times and trends moving so fast, it’s not always clear what wedding guests should and should not do nowadays. Here are a few rules to think about.


Invitations may come by post or by e-mail these days, and it’s probably best to reply the same way. It is courtesy, to be frank, but it can also help the couple work out logistics, if all the replies come in the same form.

I don’t recommend giving an oral response (if you happen to meet the bride/groom out somewhere), as that can easily get overlooked.

It may be that only you are invited, but you have a plus-one. You may have to accept that the couple are limited for space/budget etc. And don’t assume your children are invited if they are not specifically mentioned. However, if you are engaged or married, then it’s fair enough to query it.

Social Media & photography

There will be differing views about photographing the wedding ceremony. (I have written on this subject before.) The first basic rule, in my view, is that unless you are actively encouraged by the couple (eg offering a hashtag to use on all wedding photos), don’t post anything. You certainly should not be posting before the couple themselves have done so.

There may well be a professional photographer present. He will have been paid specifically by the bride and groom to do a job, and it’s unfair if guests get in his way and even spoil shots for the couple.


There’s still a lot to be said about a John Lewis list or registry, for example. It makes perfect sense that the couple receive what they actually want – and not in multiple quantities. If the gifts on the list are too dear, then I’d say it’s acceptable to give a cheque or gift vouchers.

If you insist on giving an unasked-for present, then include the receipt so it can be changed, if necessary.


One thing that has become acceptable as a guest is to wear white to a wedding. But not all-white. Something with white in it is fine, but it’s really not the thing to steal the bride’s thunder. You can even wear black these days, but ensure it doesn’t look too funereal. (Jewellery and choice of shoes can lighten the effect.)

Ceremony and reception

Unless specifically stated otherwise, the invitation will be for the ceremony and reception (and not one or the other). You may not like church weddings, say, but that’s not an excuse to miss it. The couple will want you for the whole experience, so it would be rude to duck out. If it is important for the couple, it should be worth putting up with on your part.

Don’t think nobody will notice, either!



Whatever your views about wedding traditions, if the couple want to include some, respect this. It is their big day, after all, rather than yours. Excuse yourself quietly, if you really can’t stomach it.

Of course, if the wedding is civil celebrant-led, then don’t expect the orthodox, but have an open mind and enjoy!

There’s no reason why you can’t appreciate the wedding ceremony and reception as a guest. Most guests do so without the need to offend anybody. The key thing, whatever your feelings, is to remember whose day it really is.

Marriage Miscellany

To be absolutely transparent: this article is really a mishmash of suggestions for the wedding day, rather than a “marriage miscellany”. I just couldn’t resist the alliteration – I hope you’ll forgive me!

Naturally, there are many factors that make up a successful wedding. As a civil celebrant, my specialism lies in the ceremony itself, but I get to see and experience other aspects too. So here are a few rather random – but no less valuable – thoughts that may help to make a difference to your big day.

The Bride’s appearance

As a middle-aged male, I don’t pretend to be an expert in this particular field. However, everybody seems to focus on the dress, make-up and hair. One area that tends to be overlooked is the skin. Without radiant skin, the cosmetics won’t be effective.

As for the dress, I’d only say that it should fit the occasion (ie stylish, if it’s a formal occasion).


I would always advise hiring a professional. Go with their advice about seasonal displays. They will also look after the flowers – wilting flowers at a ceremony are so disappointing.


Whether you want the occasion recorded by video or still camera, you can save money by asking a friend to do the job.  Just bear in mind that there are down sides to this. Firstly, your friend may well miss out on much of the celebrating and socialising. Then, if he is not a professional, he might stuff up, and there are no second chances at weddings! And, of course, if you don’t like his work, a long-standing friendship could be put at risk.

I think a professional is advisable, though a major added expense. Provided you choose wisely (and I have written several blogs about this – eg, the outlay will feel justified, once you see the results.


You need someone who knows what they are doing, that you can relate to and trust. Again, I have often written about choosing a good celebrant, but the importance of doing your homework can’t be overestimated. After all, you want the ceremony to be perfect. Some advice can be found at

The Reception

Table plans can be the devil to draw up, but are actually very welcome for guests (unless you have a mischievous streak and some scores to settle!). A big do can be quite disorientating and a little direction will not go amiss. If you mix people up a bit (judiciously!), they can have a lovely time making new acquaintances.


I have often written about children at weddings (eg . If you invite them, make sure they are occupied as much as possible. If they can participate in the ceremony, so much the better. At the reception, give them their own table (in the same room), with appropriate food and activities.

A miscellany, maybe, but I hope this was helpful and gave you a few things to think about.

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.

21st century weddings

As a confirmed ‘dinosaur’, I’m a little wary about what I say that relates to 21st century weddings (or even 20th century ones?!), but I think the following tips may prove instructivel.


Like it or not, smartphones and computers are part of the whole wedding process, so they must be factored in. Websites can help the couple with their organisation, aid communication with guests and enable sharing of photos after the ceremony.

However, not every couple will want photos plastered all over Facebook before they’ve even had a chance to look at their own pictures. They may not like the idea of outstretched arms all over the place taking photos on phones, when they have paid a photographer good money and don’t want to have arms blocking the shots. A well-considered sign at the entrance of the venue politely asking guests to refrain should be enough to deal with that issue.

The couple will surely not want ringers blaring out either. In that case, ask the celebrant to start off by requesting that mobile devices are turned to silent. If planned sufficiently well, the couple can even include a note in the invitation that they request a tech-free ceremony.

Having said that, there may be couples who actively encourage guests to share photos on social media from the word go, but, either way, it’s important to communicate your wishes in advance.

Incidentally, I still believe in a hand-written ‘thank you’ note after the event.

Unconventional ceremonies

Of course, traditionally, weddings used to be mostly religious, and many – though fewer – people still go down that route. However, increasing numbers are choosing a personalised civil ceremony. I believe that some of these can be the most beautiful and meaningful ceremonies, but, when you are a guest, they may not be your ‘cup of tea’.

If you have accepted an invitation, you presumably have an inkling of the style of the wedding. Even if you don’t, the fact that you have accepted to come means that you should not criticise or show displeasure. If that’s how the couple want to conduct their big day, then you should respect it. (And if you go with the flow, you may even acknowledge that the ceremony is not that bad after all!)

The same may apply to the décor, venue, music, rituals and readings. Accept and enjoy!


Wedding lists (or registries) are a useful way of ensuring the couple receive what they want by way of gifts. You can go online, once you’ve received the link from the couple, and order whatever you choose, and this item is then automatically unavailable to anyone else.

If it’s an older couple who are marrying, they may already have all that they need. However, they may be happy to receive money. Some financial institutions offer mobile cheque deposit through their banking app. (That way, the couple may be able to pay for wedding outgoings without having to over-extend themselves.)

Nowadays some people will be looking for contributions to their honeymoon fund.

Reducing expense

Incidentally, by using a rewards card for those expenses or even the honeymoon, the couple may get back quite a lot of money – or value – which is a good bonus.

Major milestones are not being celebrated as they were fifty – or even twenty – years ago. Even ‘dinosaurs’ need to adapt to the times and use technology for everybody’s benefit – while always acknowledging the continuing need for dignity and respect at these big occasions.

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.

Tips on Wedding Photography Poses (ii)

Tips on Wedding Photography Poses (ii)

Earlier this week, our guest blogger, professional photographer Neli Prahova, helped us enhance any wedding photos that we might feature in. She looked in particular at hands, legs and body. Now we’ll consider a few more vital areas.

The head

Just like the shoulders, turning the head slightly to a three quarter position makes a wide face or jaw-line seem slimmer. Therefore, unless I intentionally photograph the person straight on, I always recommend the bride or the groom to slightly tilt their face to one side. It also helps stretch out the neck area, which helps avoid double chin problem.

The kiss

It’s always a fun moment during the photo session when we come to the ‘kiss’ photo, as a lot of couples can hardly wait! However, it often all ends up with quite a lot of squashed lips and noses that do not look very flattering. I therefore recommend  that the couple, when posing for a more formal kissing photo, pause for a second, millimetres from each other, just before the actual kiss. This not only shows both faces in a more elegant and beautiful way but also make the kiss look more natural.

Allow plenty of time

It takes time to create good wedding photographs and an extra bit longer to do something creative, so don’t expect five-minute masterpieces. Whereas in the US, couples allocate up to 2 hours for their wedding photography, in the UK most wedding photographers recommend at least 20 minutes for wedding portraits. If you only have 10 minutes, that’s fine, just be realistic about what can be achieved. People simply need to be aware that the more time they allow for the photos, the more creative wedding photographs can be produced.

Enjoy the moment

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the moment while being photographed. Couples often don’t realize that their wedding photo session is one of the few moments during the wedding they can spend on their own. After the more formal photos I switch to my long lens and step back and leave the couple to enjoy themselves while I take more relaxed casual portraits. The easiest way to get a natural smile is to think happy thoughts. I often ask the couple to share their feelings about the wedding so far. I urge the couple to concentrate on each other rather than what I am doing. Some of the best photos come when you forget you’re being photographed.

Last piece of advice to all couples however is – choose a wedding photographer with whom you have a good rapport. They will be the one to help you relax in front of the camera. I always include in my packages an engagement photography session. This not only gives a few nice photos of the couple but gives couples the chance to get to know me better and practise some of the poses. It also helps overcome nerves when being photographed.

For further information on wedding photography in London or destination wedding photography please contact Neli on To view Neli’s portfolio of wedding photography in London, France, Monaco, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, California and Russia please visit

Neli is guest blogger for Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon is a civil celebrant based in London.