Hailley Howard Photography
Award-winning California + New York destination wedding, portrait and editorial photographer

Hailley Howard Photography - Wedding Tips from a pro

Hailley Howard Photography, bi-coastal destination wedding photographer.



After shooting hundreds of weddings over the last few years, it’s easy to say that I’ve probably had an intimate, insider’s perspective into more weddings than most people. To make everyone’s lives a little easier I would like to extend some pro tips from my personal experiences. 


Some helpful DOs and DON’Ts from your friendly wedding professional



-Hire a professional makeup artist

-Make sure you like your DJ’s taste

-Have an open bar

-Have a planner or day-of coordinator

-Make sure your wedding day is not the first time you are wearing your shoes

- Tip your vendors

-If there’s a dress code that you would like your vendors to adhere to, be clear with them

-Make sure your photographer knows how long your ceremony will last

-Ask your officiant to MOVE out of the way when you two share your first kiss

-SMILE! Please. Please. Please. Wedding days can be stressful, but don't forget you're on camera!

-If you are a little behind that’s okay. It’s your wedding day. Nothing is starting without the two of you

-Be prepared for this day to be a little bit of a blur. Try and be as “in the moment” as you can be. Sometimes you just need to prepare yourself with little mental reminders to TAKE A DEEP BREATH!

-Kiss! Please kiss. I know there is a lot going on but don't forget what this day is all about. Be affectionate with each other

-Play. As your photographer we cannot make you be you. We can prompt you to have fun but the more you interact with each other the more magic we will capture

-Hire someone who shoots in a perspective you admire. You must like the way they see the world

-All I ask for from my clients is a list of what needs to be shot in terms of portraits. The wedding dress, shoes etc, etc is what I automatically take pictures of. What I would like from you is a list of anything else that is uniquely important to the two of you -- think about what you want to see looking back and put it to paper.

- Please list EVERYONE that NEEDS to be captured. Who's who and in what combination you want them shot in. Less is more, these things take time so I ask that you take your time comprising your list.

-Have an emergency kit (for stains, etc) and mending kit ready to go! 

-Enjoy the whole process leading up to your wedding day

-Remember your wedding invites for your photographer to shoot with your other details!

- First look? I say: YES YES YES! Because we get to take extra photos. We can shoot family photos BEFORE the ceremony so you two can enjoy your cocktail hour. Because it takes a LOAD of pressure off the two of you so that you can be more present during the ceremony. 

- Family and Wedding Party photos - PLEASE keep your shot list SHORT AND SWEET! — Also: MAKE SURE EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT TIME THIS IS HAPPENING! Give people 10-15 minutes of a buffer. 

-Prioritize a budget for photography. Just remember that you get what you pay for. You are paying for expertise, professional equipment, a developed eye and hours of editing after your event. 

-Hire a second shooter if you have the budget, go for it. A second shooter guarantees that all those early moments are captured. MORE details (minutia), extra camera angles AND let’s be honest: it is insurance. Having a second person, with separate gear and a separate back-up is a little insurance in case a worse-case scenario something happens. WHICH IS INCREDIBLY RARE but things can happen. 

-If you hire a videographer from a team that is separate from your photographer make sure you introduce and connect them. We are all there to make some beautiful art for our couples but the video team has different expectations of them and it’s important that they let the photographers take the lead.

-Guests -consider indicating a dress code for your guests. When everyone is dressed to the nines and consistent it makes your photos even more amazing. 

-H A V E  F U N ! ! ! The more you two can relax the smoother the day will go. This sounds so simple but this has a rooted effect on your whole entire day. The more relaxed you can be as a couple the happier you will be. I promise! 

-BE CREATIVE — You two don't have to be traditional. You can be also be super traditional if you want to- WHATEVER YOU WANT! Want to get married at midnight? Do it. Want everyone in white? Do it. Want to get married in the middle of the ocean? Do it. I am game! Like I said before: There is NO right or wrong! 

-Choose your wedding party wisely. I know this can be really hard. But try to remember that there really are no rules here. This is your day and as long as the two of you are happy, that’s all that matters. Your wedding is about your love and your future life together. The last thing you need to worry about on your wedding day is friend drama. 

-Consider the size of your wedding party - a giant wedding party can be really fun, but it can also add extra stress to the day. Make sure your wedding party, large or small, is in the “know” with the program for the day-of (or any other major events regarding your wedding). i.e., if you don’t want anyone in the wedding party drinking before the ceremony let them know and make sure they know this is important to you. If you choose to not have a wedding party that is totally fine too. Again, the only “right” or “wrong” that you two should be concerned about is what is right and wrong for you two as a couple. 

-Make sure everyone knows how to handle their alcohol so that wedding party photos aren’t a total nightmare. 

::Honeymoon Tip: when you go on your honeymoon tell EVERYONE it is your honeymoon. You might even get upgraded to first class::



-Feel obligated to say “hi” to everyone or every table

-Get caught up in the stress

-Freak out about the weather - BUT DO be sure you have a back-up plan if need-be

-Invite people you don’t like

-Have ten million speeches

-Keep people waiting too long in the sun OR for food or drinks

-Worry about kids when they’re crying. This is what kids do. Emotion is great for photos! 

-Hire your friend’s cousin to shoot your wedding because he/she is low-budget or free. There’s a reason he/she is low-budget or free

-Overextend yourselves for your wedding. This makes everything really stressful when it’s a time meant to be joyful

-Encourage guests to bring their own cameras and iPhones. This is a hard one. I know you want as many memories as possible. I really understand that. But when you see your photos of your beautiful ceremony you don't want to see guests holding up their cameras and obscuring the view or distracting from your moment. I recommend a conversation with your bridal party and your family on this topic. If you two choose to ask people to refrain, send a note in your invite or mention it on your website. It is not our place or obligation as your wedding photographer(s) to ask your friends or family to not use their devices.

::Side note: something might be late. Or wrong. Or annoying. It’s okay. It happens at every wedding. Let it roll off of your back::


Did someone say shot list? Yes… When I say “shot list” I mean two things: 


  1. PLEASE make a list of all important portraits that you two want. Explicitly defined and listed in the order in which they should be taken. And remember: LESS IS MORE! Really. This is a big one. Trust me. If you want portraits with each bridesmaid and groomsman that’s fine, just let us know! 

  2. There are a lot of things that are standard protocol that should be in any wedding professional’s repertoire. The photographer will take photos of rings, bouquet, dress, shoes, etc. All they need is a shot list of the specific items they might not know about. For example, if you plan on carrying your great-grandmother’s handkerchief or another kind of heirloom, let me know!