Wedding Photographer and Family Photographer specializing in documentary and lifestyle photography | AVAILABLE FOR TRAVEL

 CASSIE COOK'S COMPLETE WEDDING GUIDE

Alrighty, this is the holy grail of wedding-day timeline goodness. I have taken all the knowledge I have learned over the years of weddings that I have photographed and broken it down into a nice, simple, manageable guide for my couples to use when they're working through planning their big day!
A lot of this stuff I like to talk over with my couples in person, but I also like to send this guide so that you can have it to refer back to and use throughout your wedding planning process!


 
 

 

Tips, Tricks, and Everything In Between

Here's a few articles I have written for my couples! They range from how to make the most of your engagement session, wedding planning tips, and all kinds of helpful wedding stuff!

Wedding Vendors that I LOVE...

planners

- Connor & Co. 
- Lizzie Morris
 

DJ's

-DJAD

wedding venues

Memphis Wedding Venues: 
-Woodruff Fontaine House & Museum
-Annesdale Mansion
-Wiseacre Brewing Co. 

MS Wedding Venues:
Front & Center Events Hall
Hedge Farm Events
The Mill at Plein Air

Chattanooga Wedding Venues

 

Hair Stylist
-Leslie Beard

Dress Boutiques

-Maggie Louise Bridal
-Low's Bridal
-The Barefoot Bride

Make-Up Artists

florist


THE DAY OF:

 

 

GETTING READY

Getting ready photos are so powerful. There's an anticipation hanging in the air, a happy-nervousness of everyone preparing for the day!

These moments can be easily be overshadowed by an overly cluttered bridal suite and not-so-ideal lighting conditions.
Here’s a few things to consider about your getting ready location on the day of!


Keep it tidy.
Those beautiful, emotion-filled moments on the morning of a wedding day can be a little less beautiful with fast food leftovers, clothes flung off everywhere, and piles of make up supplies, shoes, and everything imaginable. When it comes to making the most of your getting ready photos, it’s important that your getting ready location is as clean as possible. (Let's not kid ourselves though, when you have 8 ladies all getting ready in one room, it's gonna look like a bomb went off.) Please make sure you have a closet or an under the bed spot to shove all of the bags, shoes, garbage and general clutter (kind of like I do when I have guest coming over and my house is a total wreck!). 
 

Window light is the BEST light.
Choosing a location with lots of windows and natural light will make the biggest difference in your getting ready photos! Artificial light is often an orangy-yellowy color that doesn't turn out too pretty.
 I will help direct you once I'm there on where to stand while zipping into your dress to achieve the best lighting!


"How long should we plan for our getting ready photos?"
 I’ll likely arrive when your hair and makeup artists are putting the finishing touches on yo' gorgeous self. I tell my couples, for the 'getting ready photos' portion of the day, I really only need about the last 15-20 minutes of you getting ready, the final touches of hair and make up, zipping into your dress, putting your jewelry on. We will have plenty of getting ready photos, so there's no need to have me there documenting hair and make up for 2 hours! I tell my couples that time is way better spent tacked on at the end for your reception.

 

Details, details, details!
 While most of my work emphasizes the relationships and moments on your wedding day, we don’t want to leave out all the pretty details that help tell the story of your day. When I arrive where you gals are getting ready, it would be great to have some of those special touches ready for me! Any little details that you would like photos of (jewelry, veil, shoes, invitation or program, bouquet) anything else you’d like documented ready will make it easy for me to capture the details along with all the excitement of the morning.
Helpful tip: Designate one of your bridesmaids to be in charge of this task!

 


FIRST LOOK

I feel like considering a first look is so important, I wrote up a whole blog post on the subject! You can look at it here.

But I'll give you a quick, simple breakdown, and if you want to go read a little bit more about it (as well as some of my past-bride's experiences with first looks) you can go check it out.
But here's the summary:
1. Reduces stress
2. intimate moment between the two of you
3. controlled atmosphere and scenery
4. spend your entire wedding day together verses just getting to see them after the ceremony
5. spend reception time with guest vs taking alllllllll of your day's pictures
6. Does NOT lessen his excitement to see you coming down the aisle!


Many photographers will push first looks. While I prefer my couples do a first look, I will NEVER persuade you otherwise if you feel strongly about seeing your fiance for the first time during the ceremony. But, as a professional and someone who attends and photographs over 25 weddings a year, I feel like it's my job to inform people and let them know what they have to gain from considering a first look.

Like I said, if you are absolutely 100% positive you do not want to do a first look, don't let me persuade you.
But if you are even considering having a first look, please check this post out.

Privacy, please!
I know everybody wants to get to see you two see each other for the first time, but I'm stingy ;)
I honestly recommend keeping first looks completely private with just you, your fiance, myself and my second shooter. You don't want mom and dad coming along and the bridesmaids hiding behind a bush somewhere taking photos on their phones and giggling and talking.
 The moment you see your future spouse for the first time can be such a beautiful moment and I recommend keeping it as private as possible so
you can really take in and enjoy that moment of seeing each other without 15 sets of eyes watching.

TIMELINE: 15-20 minutes

 
 

WEDDING PARTY/FAMILY PORTRAITS

While the majority of the day is focused on capturing emotion and unplanned moments, family photos are VERY important and I take them very seriously.

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I encourage you to go ahead and think about the groupings you want included in your family formals time. 
I highly suggest making a "family formals photo" list to ensure that we get the family groupings that you desire and are sure that no one is left out. Whether you want to give that list to me, or give it to a family member to orchestrate and round everyone up is entirely up to you. 
I've found that by the time we get to family formals, my couples already have 50 million things they are thinking about and trying to remember who is in what photos is majorly overwhelming.


I prefer not to break up family photos (doing some before the ceremony and some after) because it starts to become confusing with who we have and haven't gotten pictures with yet.
I usually start with the big group, the everybody group, (usually parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins)
And then from there, narrow it down and take people out. 
This eliminates the adding people in, and looking for people and shuffling around and helps this process be much simpler. 
I recommend doing the family photos and wedding party photos before the ceremony if at all possible, but if there is anyone that won't be showing up until later, I suggest doing them all after the ceremony. 


I also have a strict no cell phone/camera policy for this part of the day.
I know everyone is also wanting to "snap a quick photo' of the family groupings, but that is what you paid me for!
When people want to snap a quick picture on their own cell phone or camera, it draws out the whole process of family photos, further delaying you getting to your reception or getting on with the next set of pictures you need to do.
I tell people to feel free to gather groups up for photos during the reception, but during designated "family photo time", I need all eyes and ears on me so I can properly direct everyone. 
Feel free to let family members know that they can snag them from you after they are all delivered without any of the stress of trying to take some themselves :) 

 

TIMELINE: 30 minutes family, 30 minutes full wedding party


CEREMONY

Sunset is best.
When planning your outdoor ceremony location, it’s easy to get caught up in the details and the settings that you completely forget to think about the lighting,
which is actually the BIGGEST factor in how your wedding photos turn out!
The light right before sunset because it is most beautiful that time of day! It’s softer, golden and straight up gorgeous. I recommend doing outdoor ceremonies about 2 hours prior to sunset allowing time for bride + groom photos after your ceremony, as well as potential delays + timeline emergencies, and any family photos we need to tack on.
I recommend going to your ceremony spot the time of day that you are planning to have your ceremony, during the same time of year (because the sun sets at different times throughout the year!)
This is important to make sure there won't be any weird funky shadows cast on you two while you stand up there, and to make sure the sun isn't beaming directly in someones face.


Consider an unplugged ceremony.
I can't even tell you how many ceremonies I've seen with cell phones and big giant ipads in tons of photos. 
It's okay to tell your guests that you want an unplugged wedding. And it most certainly isn't rude.
Not only are cell phones and ipads eyesores in photos, but it truly brings your guests out of the moment and puts them behind a screen.
Encourage them to be in the moment, present with you as you celebrate and take your vows. 
Plus... not to sound rude but, who wants crappy cell phone pictures when you have a pro photographer who's gotcho back? :)


COUPLES PORTRAITS

 
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It’s no secret that bride and groom photos are my favorite part of the day.
Not just because the moments you share on the day you become husband and wife are nothing short of magical, but because these are the photos you will share for the rest of your life. They’ll be on your walls, in your heirloom album, and the ones you’ll show to your kids and their kids someday. You likely won’t reminisce over photos of you cutting the cake or tossing a bouquet, but the look of pure joy on your face as your love holds you close are the memories and photos you’ll treasure for a lifetime!

 

Let me steal you two right after the ceremony.
While most couples do a first look prior to the ceremony, I prefer to do the majority, or at least have 20 minutes with my couples after their ceremony. That's usually a little closer to sunset, and sunset is when the light is the prettiest. Also because the stress of getting everything ready for the ceremony and all of that has melted away and you can be relaxed and enjoy a few relaxed, calm moments together before getting to your reception!


 O M G sunset lighting tho.
 
You’ll hear me talk about “soft, beautiful light” a LOT on the days leading up to your I dos, but you might not understand quite what I mean by that! We won’t get too scientific (because let’s be real.. I can’t), but the closer the sun gets to the horizon, the more diffused the light gets. Essentially, all the sunlight gets filtered through little particles in the air making it “softer,” which is why many photos are most beautiful at sunset! There’s less harsh shadows and the light is much more flattering on both your skin and the landscape around you. I recommend arranging your timeline first and foremost around beautiful light for your bride and groom photos. I like to plan for at LEAST 30 minutes for photos. But the more time you give me for bride and groom photos, the better your photos will be and the more you’ll receive!
 

 

Just the two of you, please! 
While mom, dad, the best man and every other guest is so excited to spend time with you after the ceremony, I ask that the time during your portraits is just between us. Having extra people hanging around while we do your couples portraits can leave you feeling rushed, distracted, and a little nervous to have people watching you.


TIMELINE: 30-60+ minutes


RECEPTION

If you’re having an outdoor reception with beautifully strung lights through the trees and candles everywhere, you want to remember how your reception felt and the mood of the evening. I believe using flash detracts from that so I recommend providing enough light so I can capture your reception naturally!


Adequate lighting.
 
Having a few candles around may feel moody and cozy, but will likely not be enough light for me to capture your reception without using flash! I recommend using lots of string lights for your reception.
 I can work with any space or lighting condition, but for outdoor, open air receptions, the more lights the better!

 

I HIGHLY recommend rolling straight into your first dances as soon as you are introduced into your ceremony. 
From experience, it's awfully hard to break away from all of your excited guests to go do your first dance, cut the cake, etc. So the less times you have to do that the better! 
Being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. and then immediately starting your first dance will ensure that you have your guests attention for your dances.
Speaking of first dances... I will fill you on something every photographer cringes at, but won't normally tell you.

Party lights.

Don't get me wrong now, I LOVE party lights. But I hate them during first dances. 
When I think of you having your first dance with your new husband, I think of a sweet, romantic, slow moment you two are sharing together.

But when the DJ has BRIGHT magenta lights with green firefly lights beaming down on you guys, it looks more like a rave than romance.
Let your DJ's know that you want to keep the party lights off until after the first dances, and then, PARTY TIME.
Unless you're planning a sweet dance routine in the middle of your first dance, because I'm down with that too.


I L O V E receptions! Get wild, get crazy, and DANCE! You might even make it onto my Top 10 Dance Moves post that I do at the end of the year ;)
Click here to check out last year's raddest dance moves!


EXIT

YAY! 

I LOVE fun exit photos! If you're planning a sweet grand exit, this section is for you! 
Some people stress over what time they should do their grand exit, how they should do it, and how on earth to round everyone up for this after a couple drinks from the reception.
 

Good times to incorporate an exit (thats right! It doesn't have to be at the very end of the night!)
-When you and your new spouse are walking down the aisle together after the ceremony
-Lining your wedding party up and using them as your exit tunnel
-as you are walking into your reception
-and, of course, the traditional, as you are leaving your reception

Ideas for grand exits:
-Bubbles
-Sparklers
-Confetti
-Pom Poms


Each of these options have pros and cons, and ultimately depend on what you are wanting to do for your exit and what works best for you! I just like to include these so that if a "grand exit" after your reception isn't ideal, you can still have that same feel.


TIPS FOR EXIT PHOTOS
-designate someone (mom, dad, maid of honor, sister, etc.) to be the one in charge of rounding everyone up
-make sure they know to let your guest know not to throw confetti or light the sparklers until we say so! 
-walk halfway down the aisle, stop, turn to each other, kiss, and then carry on

 


FAQ:

You seem like you have a lot of opinions regarding the timeline. Is it okay if we make our own suggestions? 

ABSOLUTELY. I know all this information is overwhelming, but I promise you I have your BEST interest at heart, which is why I’m sharing all this info! I understand that not every wedding day is the same and there’s different considerations depending on various factors. Every wedding is different and has it's own needs. This is just a very basic guide to help people when making decisions or help them think of the little things that may not have crossed their mind!
 

Our outdoor reception is planned for as the sun is setting, but we don’t want a first look. Is that going to be a problem?

It sure is!  Without a first look, we still need 30 minutes for family photos, 30 minutes for full wedding party photos and 30 minutes for bride and groom photos before the sun sets and we lose our light. I’d definitely recommend either doing a first look before your ceremony, or bumping up your ceremony time to 2 1/2 hours prior to sunset so we can fit all your photos in after the ceremony.

 

Do you offer wedding albums? Why are your wedding albums more expensive than shutterfly albums?
I'm glad you asked! I wrote up a whole blog post on my wedding albums, the exceptional quality of them, and the importance of having your wedding photos printed.