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Top 20 Must-Have Wedding Photos

The wedding photo checklist. It’s a must for some brides (hi, I was one of those OCD brides circa 2008) and it’s an annoyance at best and an offense at worst to some photographers. This post is meant to straddle the fence and be of help to both brides and photographers alike.

Brides – While your wedding can seem like a competition or game at times, especially if you’re trapped in that Pinterest vortex of wedding perfection, try to remember that at the end of the day your wedding is about the moments created together and the celebration of an unfolding story with the love of your life … so please don’t stress over whether your photographer managed to get a pin-worthy shot of your bouquet because chances are, there will be photos that mean so much more to you than those detail shots you’ve spent months swooning over online. If you’ve done your research (followed the photog’s blog and social media, checked out client reviews and studied several comprehensive portfolios of real weddings s/he has shot) and feel confident in your photographer’s ability (as I hope you would!), loosen up and concentrate on relaxing so you can look as beautiful as possible in the photos you’ll hopefully treasure for a lifetime! 😉

Photographers – First and foremost, brides are hiring you for your expertise and artistic vision. Please don’t be offended if/when a bride e-mails you or brings in a photo checklist. I know this may feel condescending, especially if you’ve been in the business for years and know the ropes but this is (probably) the bride’s first rodeo and she’s ultimately looking for reassurance. Chances are, she and her fiance (and/or their families) are putting down a sizeable amount of cash for your services and she just wants to be reassured of what she’s getting. Let me speak from my own experience as a bride – I had a very clear vision of what I wanted my wedding to be like and I knew I wanted certain things visually documented. It was very important for me to communicate the particulars to my photographers and to this day, I am so grateful that they were wonderfully receptive to my many e-mails and chats. Communication with them felt more like a friendship and because of that, I ended up feeling so much more relaxed on my wedding day because I knew they knew what was important to me and I trusted their artistic vision. So please don’t take offense when your brides send you checklists or questions – know that the reassurance is more about them and less about you.

And now, let’s swoon together at some beautiful moments that you may experience on your wedding day. This isn’t a checklist so much as a celebration of many different beautiful moments that can make up a wedding day. This collection of photos is meant to make you excited for your wedding day and give you an idea of the different types of shots photographers can achieve. I hope you find this helpful and inspirational!

lizbanfieldMOMENT 1 | Getting Ready
Whether you need an army to help you get in your dress or just your Mom and ‘maids to button up the back, those getting-ready moments can be so sweet and beautiful. I mean, how great is this bride’s expression?! Please consider having your photographer around during this time. / See the full preppy Rhode Island beach wedding here. Image by Liz Banfield.

Editor’s Note: Getting ready shots consistently tend to be my favorites. They’re focused on the gorgeous details of the bride’s dress – the lace, the sequins, the beading or the bride’s heirloom jewelry that has been passed down through the generations. The getting ready images capture those beautiful details as well as the bride’s quiet emotions in her last moments as a bride-to-be. They usually range from quiet reflection to giddiness to sheer excitement. I love seeing the range. So whether you’re getting ready alone, with your bridesmaids, your Mom or your fiance, make sure you allow your photographer to sneak in at least a few shots. 

kantzos2MOMENT 2 | Shoes On!
This is the mecca of the getting-ready shots, y’all. The shoes are usually the last thing to be put on so at this point, the bride is decked out from head-to-toe and looking as pretty as can be. Veil, hair, make-up, jewelry, dress – check! So gracefully sit down and adjust those heel straps for a uber glam getting-ready moment. / See the full fall Prospect Park wedding here. Image by Patricia Kantzos.

MOMENT 3 | Dress Detail
The intricate lace and delicate beading tend to get lost in most wedding photos because the focus is instead on a bride’s expression or an action (vow exchange, dancing, cake cutting, you get the idea …). So if your dress has some amazing details that you want documented so you can cherish them forever and ever, ask for some close-ups!

sarahjayneCapeCodMOMENT 4 | You & Your Girls
Instead of doing the stuffy portrait thing with your ‘maids (although you can do that, too! No judgment here.), I suggest opting for a more relaxed take. This shot captures the bride and her besties in such a beautifully candid way. Personalities shine and excitement is evident. Wouldn’t you love to frame a dynamic shot like this? / See the full blush and gold Cape Cod wedding here. Image by Sarah Jayne Photography.

kantzos4MOMENT 5 | Quiet Reflection
There is nothing more beautiful than a bride quietly reflecting before her wedding. This photo says it better than I can write it. / See the full Hamptons mansion wedding here. Image by Patricia Kantzos.

gramercyparkLeighMillerMOMENT 6 | The Bouquet
A bouquet shot may seem like a simple task but you’d be amazed at how many different ways photographers can answer that task. As a wedding blog editor, I’ve literally seen thousands of bouquet shots and they have run the gamut from completely awful to completely drop-dead gorgeous. The one I decided to share for this feature is one of my all-time favorites – its focus is on the beautiful flowers but there’s a hint of the bride’s dress. It feels very editorial yet still personalized.  / See the full NYC Gramercy Park Hotel wedding here. Image by Leigh Miller Photography.

MOMENT 7 | Intimate Kiss
Try to steal your love away for a few moments before or during the reception to capture that post-ceremony bliss. This is a great time for your photographer to capture those sweet & intimate shots like this one.

MOMENT 8 | The Little Ones
Little ones can add so much to a wedding and when they’re as cute as this trio, they more than deserve to be photographed. I love catching candids of flowergirls and ringbearers – it adds such a sweetness to the wedding portfolio.

MOMENT 9 | Ceremony Entrance
Not everyone will be having a church ceremony (I didn’t) but if you are, this shot could be magic. I don’t think I need to say much more – just look at that photo! Clearly, a lot can play into a shot like this – the weather, the lighting, the chapel door(s), the bride’s expression … but if they all collide perfectly, well … it can be magic.

gramercyparkLeighMiller2MOMENT 10 | Don’t Forget The Groom
Detail shots are almost always devoted to the bride or the wedding decor which is why I really love seeing detail shots focused on the groom – like these adorable cuff links that so obviously speak to the groom’s personality and sense of humor. / See the full NYC Gramercy Park Hotel wedding here. Image by Leigh Miller Photography.

zofiaNantucketMOMENT 11 | Ceremony Exit
The ceremony exit tends to be a must-feature shot on wedding blogs and for good reason – this moment is usually the most emotion-filled of the wedding photos. The couple is usually brimming with excitement or looking adoringly at each other with guests surrounding them. And it’s usually a beautifully framed shot with the ceremony venue behind the couple. I especially love this shot that focuses solely on the couple but framed to perfection by the charming chapel.  / See the full Nantucket wedding here. Image by Zofia & Co Photography..

MOMENT 12 | Group Shot
Whether of your wedding party or of all your wedding guests, group shots can be so fun and they can make everyone feel involved and included in a small way. Do consider the background for these photos – your ceremony or reception venue would probably be just perfect!

sarahjaynecapecod2MOMENT 13 | Let Passion Take Over!
This is basically an extension of Moment 7. You know that time you sneak away with your love (and photographer)? Let modesty take a back seat for just a second or two … you’ll probably be rewarded with a photo that will make your grandchildren blush one day … and I think that’s a good thing! / See the full Cape Cod wedding here. Image by Sarah Jayne Photography.

MOMENT 14 | Venue Kiss
Don’t forget where you’re getting married. You most likely chose the town/city/region/venue for a very good reason. Decide what represents that reason the best and choose a few locations that exemplify that special reason for “kiss spots.” This shot is a perfect example – the knobby oak tree roots and subtle moss blowing in the breeze are not only gorgeous but they truly exemplify the easy elegance of New Orleans. Thus, the couple has a beautiful kiss shot surrounded by the natural beauty of their wedding venue.

lizbanfield2MOMENT 15 | The Cake
Okay, I don’t think you need to explicitly tell your photographer to take a photo of your cake. If you do, you might want to re-think who you hired because this is really a no-brainer. But because it’s a must-have shot, it had to make this list! / See the full preppy Rhode Island beach wedding here. Image by Liz Banfield.

gramercyparkLeighMiller4MOMENT 16 | Reception Buzz
I absolutely love when couples decide to have one long table for their guests at the reception. I know this isn’t always do-able but when it is, photos like this are made and it’s magic! I can almost hear the music and the muffled conversations … the champagne being poured and the glasses clinking. This photo takes you right into the action and it’s beautiful. And yes, I totally had the same set-up at my own wedding so I’m partial to it! 😉 / See the full NYC Gramercy Park Hotel wedding here. Image by Leigh Miller Photography.

MOMENT 17 | Landscape Shot
If there’s a dramatic landscape on your venue’s property or nearby, consider doing a landscape shot like this. The sprawling tree is a masterpiece all on its own but becomes that much more romantic with the lovely couple included.

MOMENT 18 | Just Dance
If you’re including dancing in your wedding (don’t forget – you don’t have to!), you’re probably going to want photos of those moments. And sometimes they can be pretty awkward. Here’s hoping you have a few that turn out as gorgeous and classic as this one!

MOMENT 19 | Cake Cutting
Much like the cake, this isn’t really one that needs to be mentioned to your photographer but it always creates beautifully classic shots so it had to make the list!

MOMENT 20 | The Getaway
The getaway can be such a romantic moment especially if you plan something special for it – a vintage car, sparklers, fireworks, wedding wands, etc. My favorite getaway shots are definitely those with vintage cars and so I had to include two of my favorites in this round-up!

MOMENT 20, continued | The Getaway
Seriously, isn’t that just out of a fairytale?

I hope these pretty pictures have made you even more excited for your wedding! While I hope you do reference this blog post as little cheat-sheet, I urge you to create a relationship with your photographer so you can get to know him/her and learn to trust in his/her ability as an artist to capture what you want and more. The very best photos come from original ideas and spontaneous actions and emotions so please allow your photographer to be free to make those on-the-fly decisions – trust that they will deliver an impressive selection of photos and ultimately remember the single reason for the day – you’re getting married to the love of your life which is so much more important than any photo ever will be! xx.

CB maid


    • Thanks, Ariana! And so happy to include HWL! 🙂

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