Choosing your wedding venue is one of the biggest and most important decisions when planning your wedding day – this is where your first look photos will happen, where you’ll say your vows, where your family photos will be taken. One of the things that often gets overlooked, however, is the place where the bride (and groom!) will be getting ready – so I’ve created this little list to help bring a few things to your attention when picking a spot to get ready for your wedding day. A lot of these tips will be geared towards brides, since they have a little more complicated of a getting ready process, but they’re definitely good to keep top of mind for the groom as well!
tip number one: background matters!
Whether you’re getting ready in a hotel room, an Air BnB, or a room at your ceremony venue, be mindful of the surroundings – is it a super cluttered and cramped room with outdated furniture? a hotel with beige textured walls and super generic wall hangings? is it your grandmother’s bedroom room with very, very outdated wallpaper? your photographer should still be able to work around this and make some really beautiful images, but you’re probably not setting yourself up for the dreamy, Pinterest-worthy photos of you + your best girls that you have in your mind. Some of my absolute favorite backgrounds to look for are: all white walls with very minimal and selective furniture, beautiful old brick (even just one wall will work perfectly), or rustic wood.
tip number two: think about your lighting
I can never emphasize enough how important good lighting is to a beautiful photo. Most professional photographers are well-trained in using all light sources, and therefore will be able to make any lighting situation work well, but again, for those dreamy, airy, bright bridal photos you’ve got in your mind, you want to really focus on the light sources in your getting ready room. Ideally, pick a bright space with lots of windows – putting on makeup next to a window is ideal for beautiful + soft lighting.
tip number three: size really matters!
Again, there’s a lot of room to get creative. I’ve crunched in bathtubs, stood on toilets and sinks, and crawled on window ledges to get the shot – but, ideally, you find a place that has enough space to get the essential photos. If you are stuck in a small space, try to make sure it’s as empty as possible – a hotel room where the only space by a window is a giant king bed and less than a foot of walking area on either side can definitely make for some beautiful bridal portraits, but absolutely nothing else. The bride needs a clear space to put on her dress without having to lean into or over something else in the room. You’ll want to look for a space big enough where the bridal party can get together for a photo without having to sit on each other, and also one where your photographer can be far enough away that you don’t look like you’re getting ready in a fishbowl. I know that a lot of venues have pretty limited space, but this is a big one – if you feel like your venue’s offering may be too small, definitely ask your photographer, but it may be worth it to upgrade to a hotel room or suite. Another big benefit of having a big space is that your dress can be hung in the getting ready area, saving time and also reducing the risk of people seeing your dress before the ceremony!
tip four: clean your ‘ish up
But seriously. I know that there’s so much stuff involved in getting ready for your wedding day, and those little details (makeup, etc) can make for really beautiful shots, as long as they’re clean and well organized. But bras, empty bottles, hot pink leopard print Victoria’s Secret makeup bags? Let’s find somewhere to tuck those away, if possible. There’s nothing that makes me cringe more than a dreamy photo of the bride with piles of crap in the background. Normally, your photographer will direct you to do this when they get there, but that’s definitely not the best use of the time you’re paying for – try to make sure that the bridal room is neat and organized before your photographer is scheduled to arrive.
and a few weird bonus tips:
If you’re maybe a little OCD (like me), these are some random points to keep in mind once you’ve covered all the big bases.
- avoid carpet, if possible. Just do it, just trust me. I’ve had some really beautiful shots made just a little less beautiful by carpet. Wood floors are generally the best, and throw in a cool vintage rug if you want a little variety.
- mom’s/sister’s/MOH’s nails. Seriously. Whoever is going to be buttoning/zipping/fixing the bride’s dress, pay attention to their nails. Keep the color neutral and classy – nothing in the world worse than a elegant lace dress being zipped up by chipped purple nails. Don’t do it.
- be on the lookout for unique surfaces – antique wood floors? marble tables? check. Your photographer will likely draw on available surfaces for your little detail shots, so it’s always nice to keep those in mind when looking for spaces. want more tips for your detail shots? check out this blog post.
- keep an eye out for curtains – unless you’ve got a beautiful plantation-style suite with elegant and fancy curtains, you want any curtains in the room to be as neutral as possible. Since a lot of the photos will be shot near a window, you don’t want a lot of pattern or color in your curtains if you can avoid it.
- lastly, get creative. Keep your space as simple as possible, but use the details that are in it to really tell the story of your wedding theme!
Obviously, it’s going to be really challenging to find a spot with all of these elements, and the last thing in the world that you want right now is to be more overwhelmed. My recommendation is to go through this list and think about what’s most important to you. Do you want to be able to get a million photos of you and your bridesmaids getting ready and drinking champagne and laughing? Put an emphasis on the size of the space. Do you really just want one beautiful close up photo of you getting your hair curled in your wedding dress? Focus mainly on light. Are you stuck with the space your venue gave you, and working with a budget? Just make sure the room is neat and clean, and utilize any natural light you have as much as possible, even if that means opening a door!
Want some suggestions? Here are a few of my favorite local spots with absolutely gorgeous getting ready spaces: The Historic Brookstown Inn in Winston Salem, Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, The Cardinal Hotel in Winston Salem, Graylen in Winston Salem, and Pandora’s Manor in High Point.
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