What we're here to talk to you about today is the pre wedding planning stage now if you've been with us from the beginning, we've talked about your gear. We've talked about your vision and your creativity. We've talked about developing your eye. We've gone through everything that you need to know about setting up, structuring your business, operating legally, how you handle your money, how you set your prices and your packages for maximum profitability. We've talked about how to get your name out there to prospective clients, and then we've talked about once those clients have contacted you how to actually take that inquiry and turn it into a booking. Now we're going to talk about what you do after you've booked that client in the period of time before the wedding and after the fact that they have booked you. This is the episode called pre wedding planning. I know that might kind of sound like a no brainer, and you might be wondering why in the world did we dedicate an entire episode t...
o it? But in the years that I've been a wedding photographer, I've really noticed that the time between booking the client and shooting the wedding. Is an incredibly crucial part of your relationship with them. It's when you guys are getting to know each other back to the dating analogy that we've been carrying through these air the early days, this is when you're getting to know what they want a little bit more than what they just told you during the booking process. This is where you're figuring out their plans as they develop this is when you're stepping in, maybe helping them out with their timeline a little bit, listening to their concerns and getting to know them a little bit better as people and as a couple so that you could more accurately document their day for them. So there are a lot of really important things to the whole pre wedding planning process, and I want to talk about a lot of them with you today. If your new into the business, hopefully, this will help navigate those waters in between booking your first client and actually shooting that wedding if you've been in business for a long time, hopefully something that I will tell you today might help make your workflow before the wedding a little bit easier. Give me something a little bit new to think about, but let's talk about what exactly happens in this pre wedding planning sort of phase of your relationship. The first thing that I try to do is make sure that my clients know that they can keep an open dialogue with me after signing the contract and before the actual event date. When I tell a con when I tell a client teo, email or call me any time I do mean that they can email me any day they could pick up the phone and call me for anything, and they can ask me any question they want, whether it has to do directly with the timeline of the day or whether it has to do with the structure of where they're standing during the ceremony or what color bridesmaids dresses they should pick. I try to let them know that I've been shooting weddings for lots of years. I've seen lots of weddings I got married last year myself, so I'm here to help you in every aspect of the planning, even if you might not necessarily think that it has anything to do with photography. Part of that is legitimately because I really do want to help every single one of my clients haven't easier day have a more streamlined day have less stress on the day, but part of that is because I also want to become indispensable to them, I want to become helpful. To them, I want them to tell their friends that working with me was wonderful that they not only got really beautiful images, but they got really, really stellar customer service as well the entire time so actually caring about your clients and I'm not saying that you pretend to care legitimately carrying about helping them make their day easier really go a long way, not only in the planning of the day, but in the relationship that you have with your clients the entire time. So we do have an open dialogue the entire time. Another thing that I try to do in the pre wedding phase of things is avoid interest. I know a lot of you get this, I get this to we're a very kind and well meaning and sweet client creates a pinterest board with every single wedding photograph that they've ever seen ever, ever in the entire world on pinterest and then they send it to you and they say we want to get the shot and you say, okay, you know, seeing this board really helps me understand your aesthetic, it helps me understand a little bit more the look that you like in the field that you're going for on your wedding day and then inevitably you get back no, no that's not what I meant I want to actually take these pictures on my wedding day now listen I love pinterest I do a lot with pinterest pinterest helped me get all of my branding and marketing ideas to my web designer so that they could understand the vision that I wanted for my website when I was getting married myself last year and I was talking to our our event designer and I was talking about the field that I wanted for the reception pulling images that evoked that feeling and showing them to him helped him understand what I meant above and beyond just saying hey, I want the room to be really warm and cozy we'll warm and cozy are just words and being able to show images that illustrate what warm and cozy actually means to you because that might mean something different to somebody else pinterest can be really helpful in that way, but what I am trying to avoid is my client's thinking that they need to put together a list of pictures that I need to take it's like the modern day shot list. So I tell you my standard response to whenever pinterest comes up in the planning phase of things which it does on an increasingly more uncomfortable basis as I say listen, you know I understand that you really like these images and I see exactly why you like them they're bright, they're full of life, their emotional there really interesting even if they're not going to say that it is however, do you want to recreate something that you've seen on pinterest or do you want to make something unique for yourself that other people will be repenting later? And I'm telling you that is a in stop game changer because what people really want who are on penta rest all day long who are obsessed with the details of the wedding day, they want to create something unique for themselves they don't really want to copy what other people are doing, they want to be the trailblazer. So in saying something like that, it absolves you from that hole will you take all of these pictures that I saw on pinterest and then it makes you the person creating something for them that other people will want to pin later. So I'm never rude to clients when they sent me there pinteresque list and actually it can be very helpful if they send me the same inspiration board that they've sent their designer and they say this is what we want our day to feel like we're just letting you know that's just another way that I can get to know them a little better I have no problems with that what however it's the asking to re create shots like I said it's the modern day shot list so anything that I can do to get out from under the veil of interest in this manner it's something that I'm trying to do during the pre wedding phase of things can we send you pictures? This is another kind of difficult one where they've gone through my website and they're like, I really like these pictures that you've taken, they're not asking me to re create someone else's work, they're asking me to re create my own work for them on their wedding day and again, I try to say the same thing. Listen, every single wedding is different. I know that you like these pictures. Can you tell me what exactly you're drawn to in these pictures? And sometimes it's I really like the lighting sometimes I really like these details sometimes it's I really like these emotions and I'll say, you know what? I am here for you and I'm here to document your day and if what you want is really beautiful, wonderful emotional photographs, if you are emotional on your wedding day, your photographs will reflect that I'm documenting what is in front of me and what's happening in real time on your wedding day. So if you want pictures of you guys jumping and laughing and dancing, jump and laugh and dance and I will document that for you, I really hesitate against re creating my own work for you I would like to make something original for you. That said, if someone is really, really pushy, we saw this shoe shot. You did I really want you to do this for us? Will you do this for me? Sure, I will do that for you, and then I will do something better than that for you, because I want to give you something unique for you that is not the same as what everybody else has. Another thing that can come up in the pre wedding planning. Once you've opened your dialogue and managed to avoid pinteresque and dug yourself out from under the shot list, I will have clients that asked if I will do a site visit for them. Now. I used to get asked this an awful lot more in the early days of my career when I'd never worked it then use, and I understand that when you're very new in business, clients might really want you to do a site visit, maybe because they're a little bit nervous about your ability because you are admittedly new, they want you to see the location that you're going to be shooting in, but I still get that now if I'm shooting somewhere that I've never shot before and a client requests a site visit, I tell them listen. I mean, I listen, guys, I don't need a site visit. None of us need site visits. Not really, unless you're uncomfortable, and then by all means, go into a site visit. I'm not trying to deter you, but fifty weddings a year. I can't go check out fifty venues before the fact. And also what if I go check out your venue in summer but your weddings in the winter? Or what if we do a site visit at six o'clock at night? But your ceremony is at noon that literally told me nothing about the place that I'm at. So if a client requests a site visit, I'll tell them. Listen, I know that I've never worked there before, and you want to make sure that I'm really comfortable with it. Please rest assured that between now and the wedding day, I'm going to look up your venue. I'm going tio do a google maps walkthrough of the property, which I actually do do I'm going to look at a lot of photographs about the venue? I would love to see what your favorite parts of it are, but on the wedding day I am going to show up early and I'm going to take a walk around. And that's not a lie and the reason why I'm waiting to do it on the wedding day is not because I'm trying to avoid it and it's not because I'm trying to get out of doing it beforehand but I want to see what the venue actually looks like that day if it's raining that day I want to see it in the rain if it's dark I want to see it at night I want to really take a look at what I'm going to be working with on the day that I'm going to be working with it so I will show up if I do need to do a site visit I'll show up an hour early and my assistant and I will walk the property beforehand if they're very very pushy if they're very insistent about a site visit well then maybe we'll try to do their engagement session somewhere nearby and we'll just go take a look but I'm not going to give up several hours of my time to go take a look a church when I know that I don't need teo and I have no problem telling my client listen I know that you would probably be much more comfortable if I've seen the venue beforehand but please rest assured a lot of these full galleries that you've seen from the wedding is that I have done I never saw the venue before I showed up until that day so please trust me that I will do a wonderful job for you. I will become very familiar with the venue, but I don't need to go buy on another day to check it out. Ah lot of times all your clients want to hear from you is confidence they're going to suggest a site visit because they think you need it. It is your job to tell them that you don't need it if you don't need it and again, as I've mentioned before, what if you do need a site visit? What if you're working somewhere that you've never worked before? I worked in wisconsin last year, I'd never been to wisconsin and I was working in a very small town in wisconsin, and I'd never seen it before did I go out and drive around at the day before? Of course I did that I get out of my car and spent two hours making notes and writing down shot locations. Of course I didn't, I didn't really feel the need to do that, and I also don't want to over plan before the actual wedding day, because if I go in with too much of a storyboard, then I'm not open to the things that are actually happening in front of me on the wedding day. So I really just went and drove through the location on my car. I spent fifteen minutes driving around sort of when I went back the next day, I was a little bit more familiar, but if you need a two hour site visit, if you this is your first year in business and you're about to shoot your first wedding and you want to go walk that, then you for an hour, go do it, you need to do what you're going to be comfortable with. My point here is to not let a client push you into something that you know, that you don't need and that they don't need from you setting the timeline on the wedding day. This is something that I definitely work with clients before the actual event to do, and that goes one of two ways one of two ways, whether they have a planner or not. If they're working with a planner, sometimes the timeline will happen between you and the client. Sometimes more often than not, it will happen between you, oh, and the planner. Generally, if we're going to be doing a timeline with a planner involved, I try toe loop the bride or the groom or the bride and the groom or the parents or whoever is kind of involved in the decision making. I try to look them in the entire process so that the planner and I aren't making decisions that go against what the bride and groom want for their wedding day, so I'm very, very, very conscious of that the entire time. If I am working with the client directly to start on the timeline, we can talk about the timeline whenever they're ready. Oh, most clients will contact you before the actual day of the wedding to get the ball rolling on the timeline, but if I haven't heard from them, I'm going to reach out to them at about the two month mark to start getting a sense of how we're going to put together the timing of the day. So it's very important to me that I don't just get a timeline that's typed up in an email that I have never seen before, and I show up on the wedding day and I just follow it. I want to have talked to the client about the timeline. I want to have talked to the planner about the timeline, and I want to get it enough in advance that I can really read it if I look at the timeline and I realised that they've given me thirty minutes to do family formals, but the bride and groom have indicated that they have sixty family groupings that they'd like. To dio I don't need to walk in on the wedding day and be blindsided with that I need to know that that's happening so that I can go back to the bride so that I can go back to the planner and say listen our options here are they either give me more time to do these formals it's to cut down the list because we cannot do it in this time frame now I will not let someone talked me into a timeline that I know won't work if they say no no we're really organized will totally be there you know we're always on time we'll just go really fast my responsibility is to tell them that's not going to happen I cannot do sixty family groupings in thirty minutes I cannot do it and I have no problem telling a client listen, I understand that you're on time I understand you guys are really prompt I know that you'll be there and I know we'll bust these out as fast as we can I cannot do these in the time you've given me they will always come back and say can we do just try at which point in time I need to get in writing that yes we'll try but I'm telling you that we can probably only get through about sixteen or seventeen of them and you need to know that when the thirty minutes is up we're going to stop whether we are or are not done with the list and I really just need to stay on record by telling you this isn't going to work if you want me to try you're literally leading me out to slaughter I can't not do what you want me to do because I'm they're working for you but it very much is your responsibility to tell a client when something that they're asking you to do isn't goingto work which is why opening up a dialogue about the timeline of the day is an incredibly important thing to do early enough so that if the timeline doesn't work out in a way that's going to work for everybody you have time to change it the worst thing is to get a last minute timeline two days before an event and it's a complete mess and you know what not goingto work and then you're stressing out the planner and then you're stressing out the bride two days before the wedding which is why if I haven't heard from them I'm going to start this process with them about two months out from the actual wedding giving me time to change it if there are any problems whatsoever another thing that's important to talk about in the pre wedding planning which also is something you should consider when you're putting the other you're pricing and you're putting together your packaging information is whether or not you're working with the second shooter I don't work with the second shooter. I very firmly believe that I don't need a second shooter to do the work that I'm doing. None of the weddings that I show clients before they book me are shot by anyone other than me, I do it all myself. I've always done it all myself that said, if you get into the timeline process of things and all of a sudden you realize that the jewish wedding ceremony that they were talking about is really an orthodox jewish wedding and the men and women are going to be separated and by custom I cannot photograph them in because I'm a female, then we need to introduce the idea of a second shooter if they come back to me during the pre wedding planning and say, oh, that one hundred fifty person wedding that we were talking about when we book you is now six hundred person chinese banquet, then I need to introduce the idea that they might want to hire in a second shooter to really cover the day. I do have a second shooter option it's, fifteen hundred dollars toe out on a second photographer. The reason being is that I want to hire somebody that I trust to be on their own and shoot for me. They're working under my business, they're working under my name, and it needs to be somebody that I'm confident sending out into the field and representing me both with work and with how that they behave with the clients. So another thing about having a second shooter is when we're doing the timeline ah lot of planners are kind of condition to believe that every photographer brings a second shooter or that the word assistant really means a second shooter, and if I can get a hold of the timeline early enough and it's got a line item of photographer one goes with girls photographer too goes with guys I can step in and say, wait, wait, hold on just a second, there's only one there's only one of us, and while my assistant does shoot a little bit, we don't split up and go into different directions like that. So again, the importance of starting the timeline early can help you with problems like this. Now I do work with an assistant, and I do have an assistant with me at all points in time. I know this during the entire process, I can start gaming out when we have, as I mentioned before, kind of are pre event dinner or lunch, where we sit down and talk about the day that's happening. I've made sure that my assistant has the timeline at least a week in advance or as many days in advance as I can get it to her she has my log in information with shoot you she could go in and look at the timeline at any point in time, but it also it just sort of helps knowing as we're looking at the logistical difficulties of the day how my assistant will or will not be able to actually help me out with all of the things that we're doing so knowing if you have a second shooter knowing if you have an assistant though they're things that are helpful to know when you're putting the timeline together and also knowing important details I want to know before the wedding if she's carrying her grandmother's handkerchief down the aisle I want to know if her father is deceased and will not be walking her down the aisle and maybe that might be emotional to her. I want to know the important things about the day I do not need to know the day scripted down to the last minute to be a good photographer for them, but I do need to know the details that are important because it will help me be more focused on those details when it actually comes time to shoot them and again I would like to revisit this whole pinteresque thing because when you google you know wedding photographs on pinterest so many completely different things pop up with so many completely different styles and it is really really important to manage your expectations with your clients from the very, very beginning so you don't end up with what I like to call the pinteresque effect shut it down nice and early but you also have to shut it down in a very kind and loving manner so that they don't think that you were just unwilling to fulfill their requests but that you're actually trying to do something unique for them and help them out in a different way instead of just doing cookie cutter things that they found online the other thing that I do pre wedding is I send out a questionnaire at about two months to six weeks before the wedding and the clients are very well conditioned to know that this is coming I'm sending out my pre wedding questionnaire I send this out through shoot q I build it in shoot q and I email it through shoot you if you don't use a studio management software you can ride it yourself it could be a pds you can use something like wu fu online w u f o dot com that will let you create forms that you send out to people to be filled in online I create this client questionnaire so that I have one for every single wedding that I d'oh and I can print it out and I can take it with me most of the time we print ours out and we take it on actual printed paper but I can also do it on my phone or on my ipad ah lot of times my assistant will put it on her phone as well just so that we always have it with us the things that I'm looking for on the questionnaire are really basic we start off with just names and phone numbers bride cellphone number groom cellphone number, emergency contact and a cell phone number and a planner if they have one and their cellphone number that is incredibly important. If I show up to the bride's getting ready space and nobody's there who am I gonna call if I need to get in touch with anybody for any reason on the day of the wedding who am I going to call? I want to have these numbers while I do have the bride cell phone number in the groom's cell phone number in their client section of shoot you I want to have it all written down on this questionnaire so it's all in one place also in case anybody's phone number has changed since they have booked me this gives me their phone number current I want to know their post wedding address and then their post wedding shipping address if I'm going to send them an album, I want to know if I'm sending the album to them at home or if I'm sending the album to them at work, so I need to know their mailing address and I need to know they're shipping address, and I'm very clear that whatever shipping address I need from them needs to be somewhere that they can sign for a package, because if I'm going to send an album to them, these albums are incredibly expensive to produce on. I want someone to actually physically sign for it when they take possession of the package, then moving onwards, I find out my time to start on my location to start, and I tell my clients, is there filling out this questionnaire if they have any questions at any point in time, if they don't know the answer to any of these questions, pick up the phone and call me or send me an email and I will help them. But I want to know if I'm starting with you at noon at your mother's house, or if I'm starting with you at three p m at the wedding, then you I need an address and I need a time to start now I need an address for really important things, like the fact that there are two four seasons hotels in boston. And if you don't tell me which one you're getting ready at chances are I could show up at the wrong one and not know it so I want to know if you're getting ready in the nursery of st john's the evangelist church where that is so I request the time the location and the address I want to know the ceremony time the location of the ceremony and if there are new rules for the ceremony I want to know if their church has any restrictions on where and I can and can't stand I want to know if there are restrictions on whether I can and cannot use flash I want to know if I have to stay in the balcony if I have to stay at the back I don't want to have to rely on showing up at the wedding and asking the church lady or the venue coordinator what the rules are I want to know those rules before I walk in the door the last thing I need is to be blindsided by a church that won't allow me to photograph this ceremony at all when I arrived a photograph the ceremony on the day of and that's happened to me before so as much preplanning as you khun dio it will avoid any last minute interruptions or problems on the wedding day as as best you can cocktail hour if having akane tell our after your ceremony where is it what time does it start? And what time does it end? Most of the time caught tell our is sixty minutes long. Every once in a while a client throws me for a loop. It has a ninety minute cocktail hour. That's something that's kind of important for me to know. I need to know how long they're going to be in there mingling with their guests or how long their guests are going to be standing around sipping and eating because it helps me plan things out. Like when will I shoot the reception room? How long will I have to shoot the reception room? How long will I have the document caught? Tell our it's helpful to know these things. Then I need to know your reception time, your location and how long it iss you have a four hour reception, most of the weddings that I should have a one hour cocktail hour and a four hour reception. It's that if that's what you've got going on, I want to know, but are you doing something unusual where one is longer or one is shorter? This is important, pertinent information that we kind of need to get a handle on before the actual wedding. I want to know how many attendants you have. This is going to help me figure how many people were going to have to wrangle for the formal photographs it will give me an idea of how many people are going to be in the room with the bride while she's getting ready and if they have fifteen attendants I know that I probably need to budget a little bit more time when it comes to photographing those people in groupings I'll need more time to arrange those people that I will if they have three attendance kind of helpful to know and then is there anything that I need to know about? We've been blindsided by some things we've been blindsided by divorced parents we've been blindsided by divorced parents who have same sex partners we've been blindsided by deceased family members that we did not know were deceased and the last thing the world I want to do on your wedding day is say so is your mom coming in to help you get ready when your mother has passed away there is a sensitivity level that is very important to me when shooting a client on the wedding day so there is a section on the questionnaire that says is there anything that I should know about quotation eric uh deaths or divorces uncomfortable family situations that will allow me to accurately address everyone in the correct way on the wedding day kind of important to know list the family members an extended family I want to know how many siblings you have. I want to know if your parents are still married. I want to know how many grand parents you have. I want to know how many aunts and uncles you have and I want to know if all of these people are going to show up for the formals are not knowing these things makes it a lot easier when I get up and I say, okay, I wanna get a picture of you, blair, with your mother and then you and your father and then you and your mother and father together. And then you and your mother and your father and your sister. Okay, your sister christy, come on in. I can call people by their actual names instead of hey, mother of the bride. And then I can also handle these family groupings quicker and with a little bit more respect when I know who we need. And I know what their names are. So by saying, hey, can do you have any siblings? Okay. Your sister, where is your sister? Can I get her that's? A lot less personal than saying. Hey, emma, let me get your sister livy, livy, come on over here and I know exactly who she is because I figured out who she is. That's much more personal approach than just calling out names, so I definitely make an effort to really get to know everybody's name and everybody's relationship before the wedding day. I want to know how many guests you have at your wedding. I need to know how many people I'm going to be documenting on the day of the wedding itself. I want to know if it's big I want to know if it's small I want to know how many people we're going to need to grip and grin during cocktail hour, and I want to know how crowded your dance floor is going to be during your horror. So it's very important for me to know how many people that I'm going to be dealing with when I show up on a wedding day. And then the other thing that I ask is, I asked for a list of vendors who is your band? Who is your caterer? Who is your florist? This allows me to kind of get a sense of what the event is like because I work with a lot of the same people over and over and over again. I want to know what videographer is going to show up on the wedding day and if I have worked with him or her before or not. And I want to know who the florist is this also helps me gather contact information so that I can use it to follow up with them post wedding which is something that's also very, very important to me. So this you take a look at this this gives you an example of what the actual wedding day questionnaire looks like if you look over here on the left this talks about the formal photographs side of things this show's clients these air the standard formal photographs that we take please check off the ones that you would like and there's literally a check box next to it that they can click then it says please list the groupings below if you would like any other groupings that are not listed on this list and as you'll see here they wrote bride and groom with both sets of parents and siblings. Great. I add that to my list I know going in what were photographing and know exactly what family groupings will need now at the very end of all of the family groupings. After I've done every single thing that's on our list, I always say, you know what guys? We've got the list we're done is there anything else that I can do for you before we call it a day here I ask the bride and groom I asked the bride's parents and ask the groom's parents just in case, there's. Anything else that they want that we've missed. So as you can see by my handy, dandy little photograph here, I can also put it on my phone. If I don't want to print it out. If I just want to put it on my phone digitally and carry it around with me, I absolutely can. And it's, just a really helpful thing. Tohave, even if we've talked about the timeline on the phone, even if I have been very instrumental in helping plan the day, sending out the actual questionnaire and getting them to put their answers on paper is very, very, very helpful. It's a consistent thing that I have for every single wedding, and it really helps us manage the day a little bit better.