Wedding Planning Guide

How to prepare for better photographs

from a natural light wedding photographer

I am Cassie Lopez, a (primarily) natural light photographer. My photos have an ethereal, dreamlike glow that has become my signature style, and most of that comes directly from the sun. I created this guide for couples to help with planning for the best photos possible. I’ve included some lighting tips, and a few styling ideas that stand out to me as often overlooked, but easy to do.

I hope you’ll take something away from this guide and that it will help make wedding planning a bit easier for you!

wedding dresswedding dress

What to Bring to your Getting Ready Location

wedding invitation suiteAny details you want photographed should be with you at the getting ready location. This includes wedding bands and other jewelry, accessories, special mementos– it’s really up to you! Some couples want everything photographed and others don’t like detail photos at all.

I would suggest bringing a nice, plain hanger for the wedding dress. Wooden hangers photograph especially well, no matter the finish.

Have a set of your invitations with you, too. You can even mail a set of your invitations to me and I’ll bring them along myself.

wedding dress hanging in big window

Where to Get Ready

Get ready somewhere pretty! Hotels are convenient but often have sprinklers, fire alarms, and unattractive curtains. I recommend looking into Air Bnb, friend’s places, and bridal suites at the venue.

Ideal locations will have large windows for natural light, lots of space, and interesting but minimal decor. Try to keep bags, trash and other clutter in a separate room or area.

wedding cottage for getting ready
bridal makeup window lit


Ask your makeup artist to see real wedding photos of their clients. I hear a lot of people say heavy makeup shows up lighter in photos, and while this is often true, you will feel more confident if you see for yourself.

Another way to preview how your makeup will look is to schedule an engagement, bridal or boudoir shoot on the same day as your makeup trial.

bride getting ready

Make Time for Formal Photos

Though I don’t feature many on my website, I do shoot formal photos at almost every wedding. To get through these quickly and efficiently, I recommend having a list of the different groupings you’d like ahead of time. The list should start big and go smaller so that individuals can head to cocktail hour as soon as possible instead of waiting around. Email your list to me in advance.

wedding formal portrait at red river gorge
wedding reception farm style table exposed brick wallswedding table centerpiece orange flowers

Room Details

To get beautiful photos of your reception setup, it’s best for me to have 10-15 minutes in the space by myself. A good time for this is before the ceremony while you’re hidden away from arriving guests. You can also keep the reception closed during cocktail hour and I can shoot before everyone comes in. If your reception is in a different location from the ceremony, a second shooter is great for this; they can photograph these details while I am still doing portraits.

Lighting on your Wedding Day

groomsmen in tuxedosbride laughing with bridesmaids

The softest light of the day is going to be 2 hours before the sun sets, and this can be a great starting point for your wedding day timeline. What time of year it is, whether your ceremony is indoors or outdoors and which direction the sunset occurs relative to your venue are all important to consider as well.

For example, for an outdoor ceremony in the summer, I would recommend having your ceremony at the beginning of that 2 hour window and shooting couple portraits toward the end of it. In the winter, it’s best to schedule your ceremony after the sun has set and take all portraits beforehand since the sun sets so much earlier.

If you’re having any portraits done outside of that 2 hour window, such as the first look, you’ll want to plan for a location with some shade. Large trees, buildings with nice exteriors or even interesting interiors with big windows are a few options for this. The best way to anticipate lighting on your wedding day is to look at real wedding photos at your venue. Don’t worry if it ends up being cloudy! Clouds actually offer a lot of freedom for portraits because we no longer have to worry about harsh shadows.

bride and father walking aislewedding couple in lens flare circle

wedding couple golden hour warrenwood manor

bride in bright sun with shadows

For the reception, ask your DJ not to use any colored lights during special dances. I love to take fun photos with colorful rainbow lights, but you don’t want to have blue faces during your first dance as a married couple. Save the rainbow lights for when the dance party gets started.

If your reception is outdoors, the elusive blue hour occurs right when the sun has set. This can be a magical backdrop for something special like a first dance or cake cutting.

There’s a lot to consider, and I’m happy to give advice for capturing desired natural lighting based on your specific wedding details.

first dance in outdoor tent

red dj lights dancing at wedding

first dance at the apiary

first dance blue hour outdoors

Thank you so much for taking the time to read over this guide. I really hope you’ve found something here to help you in your planning. If you have any specific questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Planning to have an engagement session?

Check out my engagement guide for session notes & tips