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international + destination wedding photography

Welcome!

A NOTE ABOUT THIS GUIDE

I'm so excited to be working with you and we can’t wait to get to know you better over the next several months! We know photography is one of the larger investments you're making for your wedding day and we're so honored you chose to work with us!

Even if you're working with a wedding planner or you're planning a simple wedding, there are likely still a lot of moving pieces left leading up to your big day. 

Having photographed nearly 300 weddings over the past few years, we tend to get asked the same things over and over again. So we thought it would be beneficial if we put together a guide that walks you through everything from timelines to engagement sessions and inclement weather.

Thank you again for choosing to work with us and please don't hesitate to let us know if we can offer any additional guidance throughout the wedding planning process!

-Courtney

engagement sessions

I’m a huge fan of engagement sessions for a few reasons. Not only do they allow you to get comfortable in front of the camera, they also give you the opportunity to showcase your personalities in a more casual setting that is significant to the two of you. I’ve created an entire page dedicated to outfit tips, location ideas, timing considerations and more!

There's a big difference between looking at yourself in the mirror at a hair and makeup trial and actually seeing how that hair holds up in the elements and how that makeup photographs. When it comes to being confident in your choices on your wedding day, photos are invaluable!

If you're considering a Bridal Portrait Session, we recommend a full trial run of hair, nails, makeup and your bouquet. We typically spend 1-2 hours shooting at bridal sessions and it's nice to have something to hold to make your hands feel a little less awkward! 

When it comes to choosing a location for your bridal portrait session, we recommend using locations that are similar to what your wedding location is like or completely opposite of what your wedding location looks like. 

Bridal Portraits

One of the biggest advantages of a Bridal Portrait Session is that they can serve as a practice run for the big day that you can SEE

Wedding venues are usually a wonderful place to start - especially historic homes and resorts that have well manicured areas. We want to keep your dress as clean as possible and still get a lot of amazing images inside and outside.

When it comes to selecting a date for your bridal portrait session, another great thing to keep in mind is the weather. In order to avoid being too hot during the summer months or too cold during the winter months, we highly recommend Spring and Fall. However, we'll shoot anytime and anywhere there's great light!

Many venues charge a fee for portrait sessions. Although inconvenient, the fee is often worth it in order to have use of their getting ready room and other venue services. We typically have to work with the venues on times, but we love to shoot bridal portraits in the afternoon as late as we can to get that softer afternoon light. However, if your venue has strict hours, we are happy to work with their allotted times.

Make sure to bring your jewelry, your veil and your shoes to your bridal portrait session! 

Dress
Undergarments/spanx
Shoes
Veil
Bouquet
Ring
Hair pieces and jewelry

Bridal Portrait Session Checklist 

That moment the Bride and Groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day is magical. And this is true whether the couple chooses to wait until the bride walks down the aisle or chooses to do a “first look’ prior to the ceremony.

First looks—a private moment couples choose to spend together prior to the wedding ceremony—have become more and more popular for many reasons. More than half of my couples have chosen to do a first look.

While I consider myself someone who values some traditions, there are definitely a few good reasons to consider a first look. Here are 3 reasons to consider a ‘first look’:

Once the ceremony begins, the day takes off quickly. A ‘first look’ is an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time alone, enjoy each other’s company, and reflect on all this day means before your day takes off.

Wedding days can be a whirlwind and they tend to fly by so fast. There’s much to do, and a lot of people to see and to catch up with. I always encourage my couples to take a few minutes every so often during their wedding to stop and soak in everything that’s happening.

One of the best ways to also make use of a first look is to read personal vows or notes to one another. It provides an intimate moment between the two of you on your wedding day as well as giving you time alone with one another (I promise not to be in your face for these photos).

1. A FIRST LOOK CUTS THROUGH THE CHAOS OF THE DAY AND PROVIDES ALONE TIME.

When there is no first look, the majority of the pictures have to be taken after the ceremony. Family pictures are generally done as soon as the ceremony ends because it’s the easiest time to round everyone up. Next up is full bridal party, and then bride and groom portraits. This generally runs into cocktail hour and can cut into your social time with your guests. 

A first look opens up time prior to the ceremony for full bridal party pictures and, sometimes, for a few bride and groom portraits (although I prefer to do bride and groom portraits at sunset as well). This allows the couple to get the most out of cocktail hour, which makes the rest of the evening feel less rushed and you can really enjoy your guests.

2. IT MakeS more time for Pictures without sacrificing cocktail hour.

If you’re expecting poor weather on your wedding day, it might be best to plan on a first look because it gives you more options for pictures. If it’s pouring rain after the ceremony, you’ll be thankful you had pictures done in advance.

And reason 3 is for all you cryers out there. If you know the tears are going to fly the first time you see your other half the day of your wedding, a first look will give you time to freshen up before the ceremony without cutting into precious time during cocktail hour.

First look or not, the first time you see each other on your wedding day will be incredibly special.

3. Avoid possible bad weather and/or have time to freshen-up after crying

is a first look right for you?

If you're wondering if a first look is right for you, stop here.

Wedding Day Timeline

Whether you choose to do a first look or the traditional “no see before the ceremony” I will work with you on making sure you have the best timeline and plan for images.

If you’re choosing to go traditional, you’ll need two different sets of photo times: images taken before the ceremony and images taken after the ceremony.

You’ll need to plan for about one hour of pre-ceremony bridal photos (bridesmaids and bride’s family) and about one hour of pre-ceremony groom photos (groomsmen and groom’s family) at separate times. You’ll also need 120 minutes of combined bridal party portraits, 20 minutes of combined family portraits and at least 30 -45 minutes of couple’s portraits after the ceremony if you’re not doing any portraits together until after the ceremony.


Whether you're planning a first look or sticking with tradition and not seeing your groom until you walk down the aisle, we have tips to help make planning your timeline as easy as possible!

If you’re doing a first look, photos can be done all at one time, taking an average total of 2-3 hours pre-ceremony (although I also LOVE grabbing just the two of you for a few additional bride and groom photos at sunset!)

If you choose a traditional aisle reveal, all I ask is that you keep your ceremony time in mind when planning your wedding. 

If you’re planning a sunset ceremony or an evening ceremony, it’s best to do all photos before the wedding, as daylight is crucial to getting amazing portraits for your families, bridal party and your couples portraits. Making sure we have enough time while the sun is up is a great way to make the traditional ceremony work. This is especially important for winter weddings.

building your perfect

12 p.m.

Courtney & team arrives at Bride’s getting ready location

12pm - Getting Ready

Note: Ideally by the time we arrive, hair and makeup is just wrapping up. If something is going to delay the beginning of the day, it’s often H/MU.
This is also the time that my Second and I will be taking the detail shots (rings, shoes, dress, jewelry, invitation suites, etc.

1:15 p.m.

Bride gets dress on +
Groom/Groomsmen get candids of getting ready.

1:15pm - Guys Depart

1:30 p.m.

Bride and bridesmaids depart for ceremony location. 

1:30pm - Ladies Depart

1:45 p.m.

The first look takes place. 

1:45 First Look

Note: The First Look can take place at the getting ready location, ceremony, or reception location. It’s up to you! Although we’re happy to make recommendations.

2:30 p.m.

Bride & Groom + bridal party portraits.

2:45pm - Portraits

3:00 p.m.

Ceremony

3:00PM Ceremony 

3:30 p.m.

Family portraits.

3:30pm  Family Portraits

Note: We do family portraits right after the ceremony because everyone you need will be easy to grab. If you can give your family notice that we’ll be taking pictures immediately after the ceremony, that will also ensure that no one wanders off. We’ll help you create a list of family portraits before the big day. 


4:00 P.M.

Additional Bridal Party and Bride & Groom Portraits

4:00pm Portraits

Note: Depending on what was taken before the ceremony, we might grab 1 or 2 more bride and groom photos or bridal party shots.
You can also have a moment to yourselves or mingle with your guests during cocktail hour.

4:30 p.M. 

Cocktail Hour

4:30pm Cocktail Hour 

Note: The great thing about doing a First Look is that it gives you more time at cocktail hour. We’ll grab some pictures of your guests while you enjoy the hour.

5:00 P.M.

Introductions & Dinner

5pm Introductions

6:00 P.M.

Welcome toasts & first dances & cake cutting

6:00pm Toasts & first dances

7:00 P.M.

Sunset Portraits

7pm Sunset Portraits

We’ll make sure to grab you two about an hour before the sunsets. This is usually the best light of the day!

7:30 P.M.

Dancing begins

7:30pm Dancing

9:00 P.M.

Photographers Depart

9:00pm Photographers Depart

12 p.m.

Courtney & team arrives at Bride’s getting ready location

12pm - Getting Ready

Note: Ideally by the time we arrive, hair and makeup is just wrapping up. If something is going to delay the beginning of the day, it’s often H/MU.
This is also the time that my Second and I will be taking the detail shots (rings, shoes, dress, jewelry, invitation suites, etc.

1:00 p.m.

Bride gets dress on +
Groom/Groomsmen get candids of getting ready.

Groom + Groomsmen take group photos

1:00pm - Guys Depart

1:30 p.m.

Bride + bridesmaids depart for ceremony location and take
pre-ceremony group photos while Groom hides away 

1:30pm - Ladies Depart

3:00 p.m.

The ceremony takes place.

3:00PM Ceremony

3:30 p.m.

Family portraits.

3:30pm  Family Portraits

Note: We do family portraits right after the ceremony because everyone you need will be easy to grab. If you can give your family notice that we’ll be taking pictures immediately after the ceremony, that will also ensure that no one wanders off. We’ll help you create a list of family portraits before the big day. 


4:00 P.M.

Bridal Party and Bride & Groom Portraits

4:00pm Portraits

Note: Depending on what was taken before the ceremony, this normally takes about an hour total. 

5:30 P.M.

Introductions & Dinner

5:30pm Introductions

6:30 P.M.

Welcome toasts, 
first dances & cake cutting

6:30pm Toasts & first dances

7:00 P.M.

Sunset Portraits

7:00pm Sunset Portraits

We’ll make sure to grab you two about an hour before the sunsets. This is usually the best light of the day!

8:00 P.M.

Dancing begins

8:00pm Dancing

9:00 P.M.

Photographer’s Depart

9:00pm Photographers Depart

If the forecast is calling for rain, fear not because rainy days can still be beautiful (and sometimes not even happen)! If you don’t believe me, just take a look at McKinna and Tyler’s wedding day. It rained the entire day and it was still beautiful! I always carry a clear umbrella and blankets in my car just in case. This is one of my blankets that she ended up using and it looked so good in the photos!

If rain is in the forecast, I recommend ordering a few clear umbrellas on Amazon or Target. It also might be good to re-evaluate portrait locations to make sure we can still shoot in natural light – even if it means heading offsite. I do my best scouting out places indoors or undercover before I show up to shoot just to have a backup. 

If you don’t own a pair of cute Wellies, UGGs or Hunter boots, now may be a great time to order a pair – even if you’re just wearing them in between shooting locations. 

If you’re not working with a planner, it might also be a good idea to check in with your entire vendor team to make sure they’re aware of the weather. Hair and makeup may need to be tweaked to withstand humidity or rain and if your wedding is outdoors, DJs and bands may need to take extra precaution to protect their gear. A quality rental team can also minimize the amount of mud at outdoor events.

While I can’t guarantee that rain on your wedding day is good luck, I can put a plan in place to ensure a beautiful day and beautiful images.

Rainy day weddings may require a little more flexibility and creativity, but there isn’t any reason why they can’t be as beautiful and as joyful as sunny weddings!

rain tips

a few of my favorite

Wedding Day Details

I love capturing all the little details you’ve carefully chosen to be a part of your wedding day! Once I arrive at your wedding, I need about 30 minutes to capture and style details. I recommend choosing a getting ready location filled with natural light and, if possible, please keep the space free from trash and clutter. Designate a bridesmaid to keep the area clear from bags and food.

It would be wonderful if you could put all of your rings, jewelry, shoes, veil purse, perfume, invitations and other keepsakes together in one spot for me. Please unwrap your dress but don’t worry about styling it – I’ll hang it in a beautiful spot! And don’t forget a nice wood or metal hanger for your dress. Plastic one’s don’t photograph well. 

Dress
Dress Hanger (not plastic)
Rings (both engagement and wedding bands)
Shoes
Veil
Bouquet
Ring
Hair pieces
Jewelry
Invitation Suite ( 2 full sets with envelopes + stamps)
Any other paper stationary you may have like program cards.

Bridal DETAILS Checklist 

His shoes
Socks (if they're special)
Cuff Links
Tie or Bow Tie
Pocket Square
Boutonnière
Vows Book
Rings
Anything else he'll have that is special or sentimental.

Vow Book
Any other sentimental keepsakes you would like to include
We once had a bride bring her grandmother's hand mirror. This is completely optional - but if you have something sentimental you'd like styled with your details, we love including family heirlooms in our detail shots.
Bonus: We'd love to have a few cuts of the florals you'll be using throughout your wedding day. If your florist will supply us a small bucket of extra pieces we can incorporate those in your detail shots.

GROOM DETAILS Checklist 

When we can, I always try to take a photo of your rings while you’re getting ready. If possible, try to have your engagement ring cleaned or clean it yourself. There are lots of great cleaning products out there, but the best one I have found is the Bauberella Bling Brush. You can find it on Amazon for under $20!

The Rings

For family portraits, I’ll place you in the center of a large group photo with all of your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, godparents, etc. And then I’ll remove the extended family so it’s just grandparents, parents and siblings. 

I’ll keep removing family members and switch a few closer family members in and out so we get photos of you and your parents, you and your siblings, some with the groom and your family, etc. Then I’ll repeat the process with your spouse’s family. The whole thing will go quicker and smoother if you let family know how the portrait process will work ahead of time.

When I send out our pre-wedding questionnaire, I’ll ask you for a list of specific groupings, special situations (such as divorces or handicapped family members & more), but if you want to start brainstorming photos in the meantime, you’ll find my typical list below. 

Family Formals

your entire family, dressed up and together 

Bride + Groom + Bride's Extended Family 
Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Bride's Siblings + Bride's Grandparents
Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents + Bride's Siblings 
Bride + Groom + Bride's Parents
Bride + Groom + Bride's Siblings
Bride + Mom 
Bride + Dad 
Bride + Groom + Groom's Extended Family 
Bride + Groom + Groom's  Parents + Groom's  Siblings + Groom's  Grandparents
Bride + Groom + Groom's  Parents + Groom's Siblings 
Bride + Groom + Groom's  Parents
Bride + Groom + Groom's Siblings
Groom + Mom 
Groom + Dad 

Bridal Portrait Session Checklist 

Please note that this list is just a starting point and that we're happy to take any requested family portraits as long as time allows!

Consider Unplugging

It’s your special moment walking down the aisle. Don’t let other people’s phones and cameras get in our way from capturing the best photo we can of you looking excited and emotional. It really disrupts the photo! You can kindly ask your guests to be present in the moment and put their phones away. They can have access to the photos once you get them as there is a share option in your gallery.

1. If you’re getting married in the summer months, a “not-so-heavy” snack or lunch time before portraits is always a good idea for you and your bridal party to avoid hungry bellies and passing out, especially if you plan on drinking. Ha!

2. If you’re getting married in the Summer, think about having the men in something other than formal suits. Vests and suspender are very classy and that way they won’t be all sweaty in every photo from the heat and sun.

3. Make sure to have your bouquet delivered in time to make an appearance for the detail shots at getting ready time and for your first look. Often they are delivered in water and need to be dried off before use. Having towels handy can help.

4. If you’re planning on having a first look with your bridal party or a parent, they often feel more comfortable being fully dressed in their wedding attire. This also applies to whoever is helping you get into your dress/suit. 

5. If your reception is at a separate venue, add some “fluff time” so that myself or my second photographer can run over to the venue to capture it while it’s still “untouched” by guests. Having it set up before guests arrive is very important to remember.

AFTER SHOOTING MORE THAN 130 weddings in the past few years, we're happy to share a few additional tips

6. We always recommend the bride go into hiding 30 minutes before the ceremony at the absolute latest. Guests typically arrive early to weddings. This is also a good time to have your makeup touched up and hair freshened up.

7. To help make family portraits go smoother, it’s best to have a breakdown of what portraits you’d like. Supplying me with a list ahead of time, I can go over it and make sure we shoot things in an order that is efficient and won’t leave anyone out. I typically send out a questionnaire a few months before the wedding for your to fill out which is also incredibly helpful!

8. During the cocktail hour and the reception, I’ll follow you around. Anytime you’d like a photo with someone, grab me or my assistant’s attention. We love being your personal paparazzi!

9. I’d love to help you plan your timeline! If you’d like my input, don’t hesitate to email or call! We have lots of experience in this area.

10. Think about doing a fun “send off” after your ceremony ends. I have seen bubbles, petals and confetti (eco friendly of course). These make for awesome photos and you will love the way it looks on camera.

Additional Tips:

One of the best ways to make your wedding memories last is by ordering an album. These high quality professionally designed albums come in a variety of linen & leather colors. These aren’t the same albums your parents' wedding photos came in. They’re modern, lay perfectly flat and look incredible on a coffee table.

the perfect way to remember your

wedding day

Don't forget the Album

We can't wait to start planning with you and getting to know you! If you haven't scheduled your engagement session yet, let's get that in the books. Feel free to email us any time at cbowlden@gmail.com.

If you have any questions or would just like to chat, we're here for you. We hope this guide helps make the process of planning your wedding details much easier and less stressful. We can't wait to see you soon! Thank you so much for taking the time to read through our guide!

THANK YOU!