Behind the Scenes at Cassie & Will’s Wedding
I often wear many hats on wedding day. I am of course there to take pictures, but I often find myself doing many other jobs, such as pinning boutonnieres, calming the nerves of the bride, passing out blister bandages (pretty shoes are rarely comfortable), tracking down the family members for formal portraits and even sewing the bustle of the wedding gown after it breaks. When you’re the one person who is with the bride more than almost anyone else on wedding day, you just find yourself in these situations where you’re doing more than just taking photos.
But I usually have only one job…and that job is to document the wedding day with my camera.
Let’s get real…the one job of photographing a wedding day is a pretty big job and a big responsibility, one that I take very seriously. But when I had the opportunity to be both a photographer and bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding last month, I jumped on board to do both jobs in one wedding. Yes, I was both a bridesmaid and the wedding photographer!!! I know it sounds crazy. Yes, everyone who knew I was going to do both jobs asked me how in the WORLD I was going to make it work. Yes, it was A LOT to keep track of during the wedding day. Yes, I TOTALLY said prior to taking this on that I would NEVER try to be in and photograph a wedding as a lead shooter (again, I really need to stop saying never because…well, you know, I once said I was never going to photograph any wedding). But I had help and a plan to do both jobs. Today I’m sharing how it all worked behind-the-scenes, along with some fun photos that show what it looked like.
Because I was doing both jobs, it gave me a unique position to really know more information about the wedding and my clients than I usually know. I knew all the immediate family members for both the bride’s family and groom’s family. I knew most of the bridal party. I knew all the extra details about hair and makeup that I don’t always know. In a way, it made certain things easier, while making other parts of the day more challenging (shooting in a long dress was not easy). It was even more important for me to know the timeline like the back of my hand (because there was a lot going on). Most importantly, I did not photograph the ceremony. I had the help of two of my best photographer friends, Jennie Tewell and Brianna Hemphill of Jennie Tewell Photography. These ladies photographed the ceremony and all bridal party portraits I had to be in so that I could be fully present and in bridesmaid mode during those portions of the day. I took the lead on the rest of the day, shooting most of the wedding in my bridesmaid dress (thankfully it was pretty comfortable!).
Now that I’ve done both jobs, I have to say that it is definitely fun to be on both sides of the camera on wedding day. I so often photograph wedding parties having fun and it was a real treat to be on the other side of the camera for a change. I also realized that it totally feels awkward to pose for some of the photos and after a short while, you find yourself wondering how the photos look. Even though I’m a photographer and I know that just because it feels weird doesn’t mean it will look weird, it’s just human nature to worry about that stuff! It definitely gave me a new appreciation for how my clients feel when I’m guiding them into a pose that I know will look amazing, but probably feels a little awkward.
For my fellow photographers who are wondering how I navigated the day doing both jobs, I’m going to break down the process here. It’s definitely something I wouldn’t consider doing without a great amount of forethought and planning. You also want to make sure that your bride and groom (and their parents) are 100 percent comfortable with the plan so that they aren’t concerned about things being chaotic due to you pulling double duty. A few days before her wedding, Cassie and I touched base on the schedule. I explained to her how I would transition from photographer to bridesmaid throughout the day so that she wasn’t worried about anything.
The Breakdown of the Day
Makeup, Hair & Details – The first part of the day was the easiest. I arrived at the venue with my makeup already done and I was first in line for getting my hair done when we arrived at the venue. I began styling and photographing the bridal details as soon as my hair was ready. I made sure to dress in clothes that would be easy to change out of when it was time to put on my dress. It was SO nice to get to wear comfy clothes for the first part of the day.
The Team Arrives – Jennie & Brianna were due to start helping me about an hour after I arrived at the venue. Jennie was my second shooter for most of the day and was lead shooter for the ceremony and bridal party portraits. Brianna was my assistant for most of the day. She carried my bags, moved equipment, helped me load my car and was basically my right arm for the entire day. During bridal party portraits and the ceremony, I handed my camera to Brianna so that she could be Jennie’s second shooter for those parts of the day.
Getting Ready – Cassie was scheduled to get in her dress at 12:15pm, so as soon as we finished shooting details, Jennie, Brianna and I headed outside to select a location for First Look. Once we selected our spot, we grabbed some portraits of the groom before heading back to the girls getting ready room. Don’t you love how excited we look planning out the First Look? 🙂
Bridesmaid Dress Time – I changed into my bridesmaid dress before Cassie got into her dress because I knew we’d want to do some bride and bridesmaid shots in the getting ready room. Once my aunt zipped Cassie into her dress, I handed my camera off to Brianna so that I could join the other bridesmaids for some fun candid shots.
First Look – It was time for First Look and probably the trickiest part of the day was helping the bride down the stairs, carrying her train and the hem of my dress at the same time, trying to keep both of us from falling down the stairs. Thankfully, Brianna was there to help me with my camera bag and Cassie’s bouquet. My fellow bridesmaids, Rachel and Katlin, kept track of my bridesmaid bouquet throughout the day, which was a huge help also!
Bridal Party Portraits – When we finished up bride and groom portraits, I handed off my camera to Brianna and put on my maid-of-honor hat. I pinned boutonnieres on the groomsmen and then gathered with my fellow bridesmaids for portraits.
Family Portraits – We started family formal portraits about 15 minutes behind schedule, but since I know everyone in both families AND I had Brianna double checking my portrait list, we were able to power through the combinations in record time, which was a good thing because we barely finished those up before guests began arriving.
Ceremony Prep – Once the family formal portrait time was over, I gave Brianna both my camera bag and my camera and headed up to the bride’s room to get ready for the ceremony. I quickly ate a small snack, guzzled a bottle of water (because I realized I’d not had a drop of water for about 5 hours) and checked my makeup. Thanks to my fabulously talented friend, Lindsey Koen, my makeup still looked fresh at 3pm, even after all that shooting!
Ceremony – We lined up for the ceremony and, all of a sudden, the pace of the day seemed to slow down. I wasn’t even thinking about photography at this point (well, other than reminding myself to remember to smile as I walked down the aisle). I suddenly became nervous about walking out in front of everyone. “Walk with good posture, don’t trip,” were the thoughts running through my mind. “Don’t forget to fluff the dress when Cassie gets up on the platform,” was also a thought going through my mind.
Introducing Mr. & Mrs. Stevens! – With the recessional, I transitioned back into photographer mode. As I passed Brianna at the back of the aisle I swapped my bouquet for my camera and we headed off for some “Just Married” portrait time with the bride and groom. Jennie finished up the recessional photos and then joined us for Cassie and Will’s husband and wife portraits.
Getting one of my favorite shots of the day…not letting this bridesmaid dress hold me back from getting beautiful portraits!!!
And then I got so excited that I just had to show one to Cassie & Will!
Let the celebration begin! – I once again went back into bridesmaid mode for the bridal party to be announced into the reception and then grabbed my camera for the cake cutting, which they did right after they were announced. I had Jennie lead shoot the cake cutting since she’d had time to get her settings dialed in and I hadn’t due to being lined up outside with the bridal party.
Grand Exit – It was time to prep for the exit and I couldn’t believe the day was already coming to an end. As soon as the bouquet toss was over, guests started to line up for the sparkler exit. It all happened SO fast, with very little time between the bouquet toss inside and the sparkler exit outside. Thank goodness I had Brianna assisting me because there was no way I would have been able to grab my light and run outside that fast in a bridesmaid dress!
I can’t believe I’m actually sharing the below photo for all to see, but it’s kind of too funny not to share. I promise I’m not as confused as I appear to be in this shot. Jennie took it as we were testing our light, just a few moments before Cassie and Will made their grand exit. From the look on my face, you’d think I’d never photographed a sparkler exit before and was terrified. Side note…sparkler exits can be terrifying at times, but thankfully this one was not. 🙂
With my photography duties officially over, I headed back inside to gather my things. Brianna and my sister helped load all my gear and personal belongings into my car while Jennie and I organized memory cards. I then went back into bridesmaid mode once again, helping with gathering Cassie’s personal belongings and loading the car.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tired at the end of the day, but I surprisingly wasn’t as exhausted as I thought I’d be after doing both jobs in one wedding. I contribute that entirely to the awesome and hardworking team that I had helping me, as well as to my family for pitching in and helping out, to my sister who drove us home in my car so I could just chill on the ride back home, to Cassie and Will for putting total confidence and faith in me, and to the rest of the bridal party and family members who made portrait time a breeze. I don’t know if I’ll ever serve both as a bridesmaid and photographer at a wedding again, but I’m definitely not saying never because we all know how that works out. 😉