You’re getting married, you’re organising your vendors, and you’re at the point where you’re facing the classic conundrum that is working out whether you do or don’t want your day turned into a Hollywood film-set, and whether you are or aren’t going to be dragged away from your guests for 3 hours for a portrait session.

There’s no right or wrong way of going about your wedding portraits: the main thing is to look at a lot of images from a variety of photographers, and build up a vocabulary of photos that you connect with (Pinterest being one of the great ways of storing that vocabulary), and understand how and when the portrait session (or sessions) fit into your wedding day.

Here’s a few helpful little nuggets of joy that I’ve found useful in navigating all this:

1: Being honest with yourself about the importance of wedding portraits and what they mean to you.

First up, someones gotta say it: while being totally necessary, your wedding portraits are still, simply not the most important part of your day. Not by a long, long stretch! I say this as a photographer who adores that part of the day and invests a hell of a lot of personal energy into them, both on the day and at 1am in my editing cave in the weeks after. Your photographer should be able to advise on the ideal amount of time for them to get images up to the standard that you’ve fallen in love with on their website.

At the same time, they should be able to confidently make you great images, in a small window of available time. I’ve been in situations where 45 minutes have been allocated, and then rain has erupted, and that reduced to just 5 minutes because they wanted to get into the warmth of their packed barn and on to the beers.

That’s fair enough, I reckon! And a photographer should be able to confidently deliver you some glorious wondrous images, in that 5 minutes. While I personally recommend 30-50 minutes total to my couples, split across two parts of the day, I was able to work out what was important to do in that 5 minutes, work like a crazy-person and get them a beautiful set in just 5 minutes.

So, step back and ask your wedding photographer how long they recommend. Work out how long you’re prepared to spend and have a mutual understanding that on one hand its a beautiful window of calm where you get to be with just each other and on the other hand, it’s also precious time away from your guests.

2. From the USA, with love: the first look.

The first-look is still a little bit of an unknown out here in Australia. It doesn’t help that it’s name has this kind of scary grandeur attached to it. Let’s dispel a few myths, and look at a few of the positives.

The first look is, simply, a moment where you get to meet each other before the ceremony, and inhale a little bit of calm together. It doesn’t take off the magic of seeing each other in the aisle (if anything, it amplifies it).

It does give you the chance to make some portraits immediately after and reduce how much time is spent away from guests later on. Most folks often miss out on the canapés hour, of course there’s no right or wrong approach here, but personally, I’d want to be hanging around my crew for canapés! Remember you can still head out at sunset together, and get the best of all worlds.

3: Whatever the weather.

This is about having an all-in attitude. This is the test. How far are you willing to go for your portraits, in the moment? This is worth thinking about briefly ahead of time, as it can help you slip into the right state of mind on the day if the weather goes south.

There’s no right or wrong answer: but from a photographic point of view, the more risks you’re prepared to take (within reason), the more wild the photographs you’ll receive will be, and fitting to that particular moment.

Maria and Ingo leapt out into rain and rainbows for their wedding in Tuscany, and I think it was worth every second of that 1-2 minute sprint. Us photographers are a weird bunch, and you can probably always consider us up for running out in a hail storm to get the best shot, so this is really just for yourselves to consider.

The worst thing that can often happen is a bit of dirt on your dress and water in your hair. So get out into the rain, make some wild photos, then load up on some whiskey. That’ll get you warm again.

4: Light, and a variety of it.

It’s taking every ounce of strength for me to say this, but, when it comes down to it, there’s no such thing as bad light, only bad photography. Us photographers – we might moan and groan about overhead sunlight (I certainly do!), or about harsh green fluorescent light, and there’s some truth in there being something extra special about sunset, twilight, and all that jazz.

But, this is really important: your photographer should be, first and foremost, a problem solver.

There’s no such thing as bad light – only light that might make them uncomfortable. And if they’re good at their job, they’ll be able to work through that discomfort, solve the challenge of whatever the lighting situation is, and still be able to deliver you magnificent images, and be comfortable in solving problems caused by un-ideal lighting.

The photo of Anna above, is against a harsh fluorescent LED light in the venue entry-way. After the sunset shoot, this ended up being the perfect light! A lot of what makes this image work was about carefully bringing it to life in post-production, but a photographer should be able to see great opportunity and know what to do with it. Mix up the indoors, with the outdoors.

This photo of Ryan & Alan above, was shot in the middle of the day in the harshest light. By finding a nearby canopy, we bounced beautiful full light from a lake in front of them, onto them.

Hannah & Ben, captured at the majestic Mt Sturgeon Homestead, in a similiar setting to Ryan & Alan.

With all of that said, I’m still a big believer in crafting the optimum scenario where possible: your photographer will be able to work with you on your timeline and styling to offer any advice to make things that little bit more magic for both your guests and your images.

I’m no stranger to being asked about festoon arrangements, or timings for portraits. Put your faith in your photographer and ask if they have any suggestions. Chances are, we’ve got a brain full of ideas that we’re willing to share, all in the name of getting you the best wedding photography.

Try and prioritise at least some of your portrait shoot later in the day, around sunset and into twilight. This is when the dance of light does some especially magic things.

Sunset in Sydney with Jane & Michael.

Twilight in the Blue Mountains with Sarah & Simon.

5: Do the hard work on the back-end, not on the front end.

Like every area of your wedding, you want to do the hard work on the back end, not the front end. What this means is connecting with caterers, stylists, and photographers you feel you can trust, so that on the day you’re not having to intervene. This is especially important with photography. A shot list can hinder your photographer, and take them away from doing what we do best: which is being responsive to unfolding moments.

Don’t meet a million vendors for each category, meet a few and spend time with them. Make sure you get those little bells of trust ringing that tell you they’re the one. And then let them do what they do.

Because the best portraits – the ones you’ll print and find yourself sending to everyone – fundamentally come out of ignoring nearly everything I’ve written above, and enjoying a couple of carefree windows with a photographer you feel entirely comfortable with, wherever they end up being taken.

These are a fun couple of portraits to close this article up – because this should all be, well, fun!

Ms Zebra Says: This is such a great article explaining everything photography!! It’s such a major part of the day and really part of your memory bank forever – so, it’s important to be informed and connect with the person who will be responsible for those amazing memories living on.

About Briars Atlas Photography: Briars Atlas photographs love and ritual from America to Antarctica, and is an advocate of cutting sandwiches into triangles over rectangles. Away from weddings, he experiments with and writes about the future of analogue, and runs workshops on creative-thinking worldwide.


This post features the following wedding vendors. If you've been featured below, we'd love to get to know you. Click here to join Polka Dot Bride.

When a celebrant describes themselves as a ‘love hustler’, ‘wedding whisperer’ and a ‘party starter’, you know you’re going to have a fun and unique event! That’s exactly what you’ll get with Jo Booth Event Celebrant. Her energy and enthusiasm for her job shines through in today’s interview. With a background in event management, Jo knows exactly what’s needed to create an amazing event and a memorable ceremony. She has multiple packages to suit different types of weddings, and is also up for anything – if you want to get married on horseback? Sure! Or on skis? Or a standup paddle board? She’ll make it work. You can also hire her as your MC for your reception. Talk about multi-talented!

Where are you based?
Sydney, I live next door to the CBD. St Mary’s Cathedral is in my backyard.

Do you travel for weddings?
For sure. I love a good road trip.

How long have you been a celebrant?
I’ve been a celebrant now for exactly six months as I type this, and I already know that this will be my new career. I friggin’ LOVE hitching people. You are getting people on one of the best days of their lives (hopefully) and you are all there to celebrate the amazing gift of LURVE!

Why did you want to become one?
I decided to become a celebrant during the marriage equality plebiscite (debacle). I could see how painful this was for my gay friends, that they had to stand up, protest and fight to justify what should have been a given. I decided I need to be part of the solution. After having a ‘spirited discussion’ with an acquaintance who had an opposing view I decided, right there and then “Well I am going to marry any two people who want to be married. So, stick it!”. I really owe that person a beer because I followed through and new door has opened, and I am LOVING IT.

Image: Girl in the White Dress

What do you love about your job?
You are getting people on one of their best days. Everyone is there to celebrate LOVE. Families and friends come together to usher in the next chapter of two people’s lives. I mean what a brilliant concept. In this world of so much noise and competition, two people have found each other and decided to bind their lives together. I get to make that happen FOR REALS. I bloody love my job.

How would you describe your celebrant style?
Oh I love to laugh, and I think humour brings out the best in us. However, I tell couples I can do serious and sombre if that’s what you want, its just not a great ‘colour’ on me. But it’s THEIR day, if they want formal and romantic then that’s what I’ll do. But me, I am relaxed and open, and I think I’m pretty funny. I mean I make myself laugh all the time.

What sets you apart from other celebrants?
I will go the extra mile for every one of my couples. If anyone asked for me to do an interpretive dance of how they met I would only ask “to what music?”. I really like to quiz my couples, ask loads of questions about what they envision for their ceremony, how do they want to feel, how do they want their guests to feel. Just as importantly what DON’T you want. Have they been to a ceremony and saw something that doesn’t ring true for them? I want to know everything so I can tailor a ceremony that will not just meet their expectations but hopefully blow their socks (or heels) off.

Image: Girl in the White Dress

Tell us three surprising facts about your job…

  • I rehearse my ceremonies many times before hand. First of all, to my dog (she is a harsh critic) and then I record it and I listen to it while I get ready and then when I am travelling to the ceremony. That way my head isn’t down reading the whole time and it can be a more natural ceremony
  • Celebrants often forget to eat – the adrenalin pumps for ages after a ceremony and you’re on a high, until the adrenalin dumps you like a bad boyfriend and you are exhausted. Then starving.
  • Most of us carry an ‘emergency kit’ – this is for the bridal party just in case something happens. They need a safety pin, or there’s a little stain or someone forgot to eat. “Never fear I have a protein ball in my bag. Hold tight”

How far in advance do couples need to book you in?
Look, I’m not gonna lie. Because I am a newbie my calendar is kind of open right now. Having said that I have completed five weddings and have 10 more booked for the next 10 months. But as long as we have a month’s notice to get the paperwork sorted, if I am available for your date I would love to chat about it with you some more.

What’s the process after booking you in?
Once the couple has gotten in touch I send a booking form and they need to pay the booking fee if they want me to hold their date for them. Once that is sorted then I will send them a special booklet I have created called “How to build a whizz bang ceremony and other important marriage stuff”. This booklet has ALL the info and hints they will need to get them excited about their ceremony and how create the one of their dreams.

Next, we will meet to fill out the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) and we chat about the ceremony they are looking for, the venue and I dig around to get more info on them as a couple. At this meeting I also give them (and send a soft copy by email) of the Couples Questionnaire. This is my secret weapon to find out all about them. Its better done individually (I get so much juicy and funny responses separately) and sent back to me separately. It’s this questionnaire and that interview that helps me write an amazing ceremony script. IF THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT. If they want short and sweet of course I can do that too.  I always like to do to a rehearsal with couples if possible, if not in person then a long chat over the phone is good too. I find these take away a lot of the nerves for couples as they know what to expect and have some faith in what’s going on. I will also send an Order of Service before the big day so they can see what order things will happen in and just double check I have everything right.

Any tips for couples writing their own vows?
My whizzbang ceremony builder booklet is super helpful with lots of examples of vows to help inspire couples and get the juices flowing. But really if they just ask themselves a few questions that usually teases out what they want to say;

  • How do they want their spouse to feel when they hear the vows?
  • How does your spouse make you feel?
  • What do hope never changes in your relationship?

And ask your celebrant for advice. If you are keeping them secret ask your celebrant to compare them and check the length and tone of each. They will let you know if anything is glaringly different.

How do you approach the wedding day?

As I said before, I like a rehearsal with the couple about 7-10 days before the ceremony, just to ensure everyone is clear on who stands where, who holds what and what to say and when. Then I rehearse and rehearse again (my poor, poor dog has to endure so many ceremonies) and then I go through my checklists. I mean I have checklists for all my checklists.

How do you make each ceremony you do super special?
By listening to the couple. It’s that easy. Listen to what they want, the tone and vibe they are wanting to achieve and understanding how they and their guests want to feel. Oh, and I ask LOTS of questions. Lots and lots of questions. Occasionally I might surprise the couple with a reverse vows or the guests doing a ring warming or doing a flash mob reading but I make sure I know my couples really well before I introduce something like that. Whenever I have surprised my couples it has always been a brilliant surprise. Promise.

What’s your advice for brides and grooms for keeping stress to a minimum on their big day?
Try to remember the whole process is supposed to be fun. This should be something you do together so make sure you share the tasks, share the love and ask family and friends to help out. Get them to do small tasks and that way they will feel like they really contributed to your day. Also remember it is just the first day of your marriage, it’s the days after that really count.

You’re also a wedding MC! Tell us more about that…
My background is actually event management. I am and have always been a little bossy boots. I like things to be just so. Planning and executing events in order to achieve and outcome is something I really love. I started MCing events as it was getting hard to find the right MC. Once I did a couple, I kept getting asked to do others but just as favours, not paid. Then I became a celebrant and realised those many weddings I did for free, well now I could make that into a career and make weddings REALLY SPECIAL. Going from the ceremony to the reception all with the same celebrant (now MC) – THAT’S GENIUS!

Most memorable wedding you’ve been a part of?
My very first one. Marrying a friend, I have known since we were seven years old. It was her first marriage at 49 and she was literally marrying the man of her dreams. The faith and trust they put in me plus the fact it was in front of a lot of people I knew, well it was just the most special wedding. I will never forget it but then you never forget your first do you.

Best testimonial you’ve ever received?
Well, all of them really. For the couples to take time to thank me and leave a review I think is the highest compliment. But when they say how the ceremony made them feel and use the words, I treasure the most like laughter, genuine, romantic, positivity, sincerity, professional and bloody funny – well then I know I have hit the mark.

Thank you Jo for taking part in our Expert Interview series today! It’s easy to see why the couples you have married chose you for the job. Your passion and love for love is inspiring. If you’d like to find out more about Jo and the packages she has available for ceremonies or as your reception’s MC, head on over to the Jo Booth Event Celebrant website.

Headshot and images courtesy of Jo Booth Event Celebrant

Image via Dan the Man Cooking

Why choosing ‘ethical catering’ is the best approach
How lucky are we that we live in a world where we’re spoilt for choice? Different restaurants, a variety of cuisines and many food styles for the parties we throw. When it comes to planning our weddings, initially – we are so excited, but often, the reality of choice sets in and we can, quite quickly, feel overwhelmed and stressed.

The sheer amount of work to do in deciding which people to bring on board to fit the vision means hours of research and so many conflicting ideas and offerings. But, imagine this; a condensed supplier list filled to the brim with good people and wholesome businesses so you never have to worry about paying ‘wedding prices’.
Yes – they do exist – they are your ethical suppliers. You just need to learn how to find them.

What makes an ethical caterer
An ethical caterer has a passion for taking responsibility for the resources they use and making that their inspiration for their business. It isn’t easy! But the waste-free movement has inspired so many conscious changes in the catering world and now couples are getting a more authentic offering.
Being ‘ethical’ is all about the decision to be conscious of the consumer power you have in hosting a wedding.

Image 2 & 3 via Tim Kindler

Choosing an ethical caterer
There are many aspects to selecting an ethical caterer and many can be personal reflections of your relationship and values. We’ve broken ‘ethical’ in the catering space into a few different interpretations and perhaps you’ll see a few of your own values speak through them.

Zero Waste
Knowing a business is focused on reducing or completely removing their waste is a very hot topic at the moment. Do they opt for minimizing single use, or choose reusable over compostable, and how do they order to ensure food isn’t discarded if not prepared? Do you feel passionate about leftovers going to homeless shelters or are you extremely anti straw? Ask the question and challenge your caterers to step into a zero waste zone.

What better way to get the day of your dreams than looking for a business who welcomes adaptability and revels in designing unique experiences alongside you. You work with a team who cares about you and your guests experience, pays attention to your favourite dishes and is delighted to whip up the meal you had on your first date.

Do they get excited to use lamb from your family farm and love finding ways to incorporate Uncle Mack’s cakes into their grazing tables? Ditch cookie cutter and have a team who supports, and fights, for what is uniquely you.

Image via Kate Sommer

Supporting Local
If you care about supporting local economies, find a business whose supply chain includes other local businesses. By simply asking how they choose their suppliers, can reveal a lot about how local their values are. Local also means there are less carbon food miles used to produce your dishes and you’ll be eating peak season produce as they’ll be buying from the area they are based.

At a time of drought for Australian farmers, booking a local caterer gives you all the feels knowing you are supporting the men and women who work so hard to produce our food.

Image via Michelle Fiona Photography

Business for Purpose
B Corp businesses have to go through a rigorous certification process to say they are a business for purpose. They meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, they have full public transparency, and uphold legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

No ‘wedding prices’ here. You know these businesses remain honest, good and deliver just what you ask for.

By staying true to what is right for you, you’ll form your own ethical approach to your wedding and it will make the hunt for your wedding tribe much easier. Take the time to reflect on what is ethical to you and seek what resonates. Your research will be done in a few quick calls and you’ll go back to feeling happy, peaceful and free to marry the one you love.

Ms Zebra Says: After featuring so many fantastic eco-wedding ideas last month, it’s certainly made me think twice about where everything is coming from! Catering is no different and I think it’s great what Dan the Man Cooking are doing in the market! Thanks for this great piece.

About Brooke Mills, Event Planner at Dan the Man Cooking: Dan The Man Cooking are an ideas-driven event catering company turning local, seasonal, and lesser known produce into dishes that feed your heart and rock your radishes. They create deliciously bold food, all whilst encompassing a zero waste mindset; taking responsibility for the resources they use. They are the only caterer in Australia that is B Corp certified, and they have an in-house eco-ethical event planner, making them the only stop for those planning an occasion with purpose.


This post features the following wedding vendors. If you've been featured below, we'd love to get to know you. Click here to join Polka Dot Bride.