Welcome to Keeping it Candid – Wedding Photography Unfiltered for photographers who want to keep it real. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, international wedding and family photographer and educator with a Marie Kondo-style approach to running a business – you know, keeping things simple and getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy!. More importantly, I’m a strong enneagram 3w2 who is obsessed with tacos, and my love for travelling is one of many things that drives my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner. Join me twice a month for a candid, behind-the-scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer – where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level. Absolutely no fluff here, friends! So grab your favourite notebook and pen, and let’s dive into this week’s episode.
Hello hello hello friends! Welcome back to another episode of Keeping It Candid. Before we get started you’re going to want to pause and go back to episodes 5 and 6 if you haven’t listened to them already. In episode 5 I talked about how to create a stress-free timeline for a wedding day, and in episode 6 I talked about how to prep your clients for their wedding photos ahead of time – today’s episode goes hand-in-hand with each of these. I’m talking all about what I call “The Wedding Day Questionnaire” – what it is, why it’s so important, what kind of information you should be collecting from your couples, and how to make sure no detail gets missed.
The Wedding Day Questionnaire is a questionnaire that I send out to my clients three months ahead of their wedding day to get every detail I can that will contribute to the photos that need to be taken.
Let me tell you – it’s INTENSE at first glace. It’s the only piece of homework I really give my clients during our time together, and it’s not something that can be filled out in a few minutes. It’s 12 pages of questions, information, and inspiration to help paint a picture of what the wedding day will look like for both me and the couple.
It’s such an important part of the planning process because if I didn’t ask my couples these questions or give them information about their photos ahead of time, I’d be showing up on a wedding day without any idea of what was to come. I’ve worked with photographers who, the night before the wedding, had no idea what time they were supposed to be on-site the next day because the couple never gave them the information. Or, who will wait for their couples to tell them what’s happening next on the wedding day, which always led to a lot of muffled whispers from the couple and the guests asking, “what are we supposed to be doing right now? what are we waiting around for?” because no one was taking the lead to keep the day flowing. Like I said in the last couple of episodes – this is likely our couples’ first time getting married and planning a wedding, and they’re relying on us, the vendors they’ve hired, to be the experts and guide them along the way to create the wedding day they’ve been dreaming of. Using a questionnaire is such a great way to avoid unnecessary headaches on the day of because you’ll have all the details you need to keep serving your couple no matter what comes your way. Because let’s be real – we all know, anything can happen on a wedding day! But it becomes a hell of a lot easier to roll with the punches when you’re thoroughly prepared.
So let’s dive into what my wedding day questionnaire looks like. I mentioned already that it’s 12 pages long! I’ve built it right into Honeybook, which is my CRM system. It’s designed with my brand colours and photos from my portfolio, so my clients aren’t just receiving a hella-boring list of questions that takes them back to their worst memories of high school. NOBODY wants that. It gives them space to type in their answers, but the best part is that it actually auto-saves as it’s filled out, so they can go back to work on it as their schedules allow. Life gets busy and I totally respect that so I want to make it as easy as possible on my couples to get this information to me!
I know that a lot of the small details of the wedding day haven’t been finalized three months beforehand, but that’s ok. They can fill out the information they DO have, and come back to the rest later. But there’s another reason why I send it out three months in advance – the questionnaire is FILLED with information like the average amount of time a certain event of the day takes to photograph, why I recommend a first look, and so much more. It gets my couples thinking about how their wedding day is all going to come together in a way that makes it all seem more real. It guides them with my expertise to ensure they’re getting the wedding photos they were expecting when they decided to hire me.
The questionnaire is broken down into different segments of the day, starting at the very beginning, and I’m going to give you some highlights from each right now!
To start things off, I ask for contact information from my couple, someone in their wedding party, and a VIP that would be best to contact for each side just in case there’s any sort of emergency and I’m not able to get ahold of the couple or the wedding party.
Then, we get into the photos. I ask if we’re going to be doing getting ready photos, and for who. If there’s a wedding dress involved in the day, I ask how it gets done up, because a zipper and a corset take significantly different amounts of time to do. I also like to ask if any gifts will be given during this time so we can ensure the moment is captured as well.
Next comes the first look – will the couple be doing one? As much as I’m on team First Look, it’s not my wedding day, and I’m never going to force my couples to structure their day in the way that I, specifically, think is best. I’m there to tell the story of THEIR day and if they don’t want to do a first look after reading the information I give them about the benefits, then that’s ok. It’s their day and their story and that’s what matters most of all.
If they are doing a first look, I ask if there’s a specific place they’d like it to happen, and if they’d like to do any other photos between the first look and the ceremony, like their newlywed portraits, wedding party photos, or family formals.
To plan for the ceremony, I ask what time the ceremony is starting at – super important detail! How long the officiant is expecting the ceremony to be, and if there are any guidelines, restrictions, or limitations set out by the venue that I need to abide by while taking photos. This is especially important because, for example, some churches don’t allow flash photography. The more information like that I have ahead of time, the better prepared I am to do my job.
I ask if we’re going to be taking a group photo after the ceremony and if we need to allow time for a receiving line afterward as well.
And then comes family formals. I give recommendations for the main groupings of people – basically, photos including immediate family. Then I ask if there are any other important guests that they would like included, too.
Most importantly, for family formals, wedding party photos, and newlywed portraits, I’m asking questions to make sure what we’re doing is accessible and comfortable for every person involved. I ask for everyone’s pronouns to ensure we’re addressing everyone appropriately. I ask if anyone requires flat surfaces to accommodate mobility limitations; if quiet, sensory friendly spaces are needed; if they’d like to request poses without kneeling, lifting, or anything else that we can do to make sure everyone can participate, have fun, and feel safe with us along the way.
As we head into the reception, what time dinner is being served at is one of the most important pieces of information I need to know, so I can make sure any photos taken between the ceremony and reception don’t cause a delay with the caterers and venue who are getting ready to serve the food that’s been prepared. I also like to ask when speeches are happening, when the first dance and any parent dances or significant events are happening, and if the couple would like to sneak away for sunset photos before it gets dark. Who doesn’t love a chance to take advantage of that golden hour glow, right?!
To make sure no detail gets missed, think about a wedding day you’ve photographed in the past. Run through the entire thing from start to finish, and write down any details you’ve encountered throughout the day. I’m talking, from the second you arrive at your first location to the last second as you leave the reception that night! What kind of information will help you to do your job to the absolute best of your ability? Write it down, then turn it into a questionnaire!
My wedding day questionnaire has been a work in progress over the almost ten years I’ve been in business, because each wedding season brings it’s own unique moments and challenges to learn from. Keeping the template designed in Honeybook allows me to go through to make any changes or add in additional questions and information any time I need to.
If you don’t have a CRM system like Honeybook that allows you to create templates like this one, I recommend using something like Google Forms. Though it won’t save along the way and your clients will have to fill it out all in one sitting, it will give them an easy, user-friendly experience and, once it’s submitted, it will keep all of the information they’ve provided organized in one place where you to easily access when you need to.
Now, as a wedding photographer with a chronic illness, this wedding day questionnaire has an extra bit of importance for me. Having all the details of the day allows me to prepare for what my health needs will be. I want to know ahead of time if I’m going to need to bring my own food to accommodate my dietary needs. I want to know where I can build in a quick break throughout the day so that I can take a few minutes to sit and rest my body while my assistant takes lead capturing things like candids. And, if I’m being totally honest, it gives me an idea of how bad the “wedding hangover” is going to be that’s inevitably coming my way. If it’s a low-key six hour wedding, I might be able to salvage some of my afternoon the next day. If it’s a non-stop twelve hour wedding, I know I’m going to be a complete write-off for at least a couple of days afterward. Finding ways to accommodate my needs is the key to making sure I’m able to make it through the day – or days, if we’re counting that wedding hangover – while still providing an amazing experience for my clients.
If you’ve been listening to this episode and you’re thinking… great, more work to add to my plate… make sure you head to simplysandrayvonne.ca and scroll to the bottom of my homepage to get on my email list. I’ve got an announcement coming your way next week that you’re not going to want to miss! Spoiler alert, it may or may not be a template… But that’s all I’m going to say!
And on that note – I’ll be back with a new episode in two weeks! Come hang out over in the Wedding Photography: Unfiltered community on Facebook until then!
Thanks so much for listening to Keeping It Candid: Wedding Photography Unfiltered with Sandra Henderson! You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid. In the meantime – let’s connect! You can find me on Instagram @simplysandrayvonne, and on Facebook in the Wedding Photography Unfiltered community! If you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honoured if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave me a review!
Until next time!