Christchurch Wedding Planning Guide

by Wedding Photographer Steve Selwood

As an experienced wedding photographer I've seen many weddings from start to finish. Photographers probably see more of a many weddings than anyone. More than Make Up Artists(MUAs), more than Celebrants, more than Caterers, more than Venue providers. More than couples and their families. For most couples planning a wedding is a daunting task, as most have never done it before. This guide is my way of helping, to give you insights, to give you my suggestions, my tips, and from all of this you can adjust things to suit you, because every couple and wedding is different.

Where to start

I suggest you look at venues, photographers and celebrants at the same time. Many couples look for one at a time. The problem with that is if you have a photographer in mind, and you book the venue and then ask the photographer if he's available, you may well get the answer "no sorry". So I suggest you coordinate finding and booking all three at once. In my case I'm happy to pencil you in without a deposit, so that you can book the venue and then confirm with me.

Planning Your Day

I urge you to plan the timing of your day from the start. There are two typically fixed events, the ceremony and the reception. Pick a time for your ceremony, then leaving lots of spare time, work backwards to when the bride will need to start getting her hair and makeup done. Then work forwards from the ceremony to the reception. The one thing about all wedding days is that time goes by very quickly. Things rarely go like clockwork, little things slow things down, so please leave plenty of time, more than you think it will take. By doing this you can see what ceremony time and reception time is going to work before you book anyone.

A Typical Wedding Plan for the Day

Every wedding is different, so this is just a typical timing for a wedding day. You need to adjust this to suit your plans.

9am: Makeup artist (MUA) starts
11am: Photographer arrives
12:15pm: Bride starts to get dressed
12:30pm: Bride dressed and ready for photographs
1pm: Brides leaves for ceremony
2pm: Ceremony
2:30pm: Guests congratulate the happy couple
3pm: Family pictures
4pm: Bridal party pictures
5pm: Reception

You can if you wish have some pictures before the ceremony. That can make the day less rushed.
This is your day, so plan it how you want it. Just consider what your guests will be doing on the day.

Hair and Makeup

I suggest the brides gets her makeup done 2nd to last. This way she gets nice pictures of herself. Otherwise all the pictures will be of the bridesmaids!

I suggest the bride and bridesmaids wear robes/kimonos or even white men's shirts that will look nice before they get dressed.

Do a trial makeup test with your preferred makeup artist.

Please think about your photographer when deciding where to have your hair and makeup done. Good natural light from a large window is good. And think about what will be behind you.


Make a bad weather plan. It may rain. Do you want everyone to have an umbrella or do you want cover?

Ceremony Siting

Please avoid siting the ceremony so the Sun is directly on the brides face. No bride wants pictures of her squinting! And hard sunlight is very unflattering. I prefer either the Sun to be behind the couple or for them to be in shade. Also consider what is behind that will be in the pictures.

Dappled shade can look very nice but be very had for photographs, so it's usually best to avoid having the couple standing in dappled shade. For example, suppose only the bottom of the bride's dress is in sunlight. Expose for the dress and under expose the couple, or expose for the faces and let the dress blow out? Dappled shade can make a wedding photographer's job very difficult.

Leave plenty of space between the ceremony and the guests, roughly 50% more than you think. This makes it easier for the photographer. Also, if you can, make the aisle 50% wider than you think.

Unless you get the sort of photographer that just stands in one place during the ceremony, try and allow space all the way round the guests so the photographer can get lots of different angles at different phases of the ceremony.

Tips for your Day

Relax, smile, your photographer can't take beautiful pictures of you if you are looking unhappy.
Walk slowly. The slower everything happens the more time you are giving your photographer to get pictures.
Brides with long dresses - always walk forwards, often this means taking a circle round to get to the right place.
Remember, your photographer is trying to get great pictures of everyone, so treat him as your friend, look happy, smile.

Give your photographer warning about things like the bride arriving at the ceremony, cutting the cake, speeches, and the first dance. In my case I'm often multi-tasking, doing video and pictures at the same time, and it takes a few minutes to set-up, so I need that bit of warning. Generally it's best to ask for the go ahead from your photographer before commencing on something, so get the person doing the music for the bride's arrival at the ceremony to wait for the nod from the photographer.

Tips for the Couple

When being photographed, try and be physically affectionate. Grooms, don't leave your hand hanging, place it gently on her arm, on her waist, just to show that love you have for her.
Brides, likewise, think of different ways to be in physical contact with him.
Please please don't hide your natural selves. Have fun, your photographer would love to capture those natural moments.

Most couples have never been photographed professionally, and some worry about being photographed. Please don't worry, I'll guide you on where to go, what to do, how to pose, it will be a fun and relaxed part of your day :)

How to choose your Wedding Photographer

Many couples just consider the price and the pictures they see on the photographer's website. Unfortunately that means they can sometimes be quite disappointed.

I have a few tips. If you can, meet your photographer, see if you like him, whether he will be a comfortable part of your day.

Most importantly, make sure the style of working of your wedding photographer matches you as a couple. I'm not talking about the style of his pictures, I mean how he works. Does he just do posed shots? If you rather dislike being photographed, you will hate this type of photographer, and it will make your day a chore. I've seen it happen, and I've felt so bad for the wedding couple.

So I suggest you ask the photographer about the way he works, does he just do posed shots, does he vary the amount of posed and candid/natural shots to suit the newly married couple?

Also, ask about posing. Does the photographer pose the people in the group shots? Some don't, and the results can be appalling. This is where my skill as a portrait photographer comes in, I'm very good at photographing women, and I strive to make sure all the ladies at a wedding look amazing. I know they appreciate my efforts.

Don't just rely on the edited pictures on his website, often the small number of the best pictures he's taken. Ask to see unedited full-size pictures. I've been asked to edit other wedding photographer's pictures by disappointed brides, and I've been shocked at the poor quality of the pictures.

An unplugged Wedding?

Brides and grooms have different attitudes to guests with phones, cameras and video cameras. If you want nice clean wedding pictures in which the guests are concentrating on the marriage ceremony and not their cameras, consider asking the celebrant to ask guests to put all their devices away during the ceremony. Unplugged weddings are becoming very popular as it increases your chance of getting great professional pictures of the ceremony.