Getting Ready: Making the Most of Your Wedding Day

The morning of your wedding day can be filled with Instagram-worthy moments if you follow this simple guide from Pittsburgh brides and photographers.


Celebrating your wedding day with friends and family — and capturing it all on camera — does not have to wait until after the ceremony.
A pop of a champagne bottle in the morning can really kick off the party.

To ensure your day is magical from sunrise to sunset, we’ve compiled a how-to guide based on advice from Pittsburgh brides and local photographers.


The Bridal Suite: Location

Picking the best place to get ready in the morning is crucial to creating the ultimate photo op. It also helps the process go smoothly.

“Lighting can change an entire room. It can be a small room, but if it has white walls and the lighting is perfect, then it can look like the room is huge,” says Danielle Durbin, who owns Danielle Durbin Film & Photo.

Durbin says it doesn’t matter whether a bride chooses to get ready in a hotel room or at the home of parents or friends — as long as there is ample natural lighting. The room should also “not be overcomplicated with furniture.”


The size of the room can play into how efficiently the bride and her party can get ready. The more spacious, the better.

“I recommend first looking at the size of the wedding party,” says photographer Kristen Wynn, owner of Kristen Wynn Photography. “Any more than four bridesmaids in a hotel room can get tight. I suggest getting a suite with multiple rooms or bathrooms and a large window for ample light.”

Sometimes, the ceremony venue will include a bridal suite to allow the bride and her party to get ready on site. However, it is not always the best location.

“If the venue says they have a suite to get ready, [the bride needs] to go look at it because there are a lot that are cramped, have no windows or there is bad lighting,” says photographer Leeann Golish, owner of Leeann Marie Photography.


New trends include getting ready in a hair salon or an Airbnb near the ceremony venue.

“I had a bride do an Airbnb and it was amazing — fresh and bright,” says Golish. “I would look into that or larger hotel suites.”

No matter the location, make the room as photogenic as possible, which means cleaning up clutter.

“Think about all of the bags that the dresses came in, purses and shoe boxes. There is a ton of stuff people bring, so pick one room [as] a stuff room and one that is for getting ready for photographs,” says Golish.



The Bridal Suite: Moments to Capture

For brides looking to create a couple of cute posed photos with bridesmaids, Golish emphasizes to set time aside in the itinerary so the morning isn’t rushed.

An ideal time to schedule pictures is after makeup and hair are done but while the bride and her party are wearing their matching comfortable attire.

“The big one is the robe shot, where everyone has matching robes or pajamas, pictures of the girls just laughing together before they put their dresses on,” says Wynn.

As part of these posed shots, many brides opt for a champagne pop. Melanie Modaffari, who married Alex Weilersbacher on Aug. 31, went with a more colorful experience — confetti poppers.


“I actually found it on Pinterest,” she says. “I wanted people to know who I am. The confetti was an expression of me loving being a girly girl and it went with the pink colors of our wedding. I did something old, something new, something borrowed and something pink.”

The morning is a good time to capture smaller moments. Kelsey Fink, who married Max Echard on June 22, planned for her mother to walk her down the aisle; her father passed before her wedding day. Prior to the ceremony, Golish photographed the two in their pajamas practicing the dance they were going to do at the reception — Kelsey’s song she shared with her late father, “My Girl” by The Temptations.

Other photo ops local photographers suggest include the zippering of the dress and veil placement by the bride’s mother or maid of honor, first-look reactions from the bridesmaids and bride’s father, the opening of gifts to the bridesmaids and the bride’s mother, and any posed shots of the bride with her parents, grandparents and bridal party after everyone is dressed and ready for the ceremony.



The Bridal Suite: Must-Haves

The morning can run efficiently and without major bumps if the right items are in the room.

“First and foremost, a sewing kit. You don’t think you’ll need it, but I had to sew something at my wedding,” says Kelsey.

Other essentials she recommends are lash glue, nail glue, a stain pen, deodorant, makeup wipes, eye drops, perfume, gum or mints, scissors, Band-Aids, Neosporin, blotting sheets for your face (so it’s not oily when you walk down the aisle) and a razor. “I cannot tell you how many girls need to shave their armpits because they realize they forgot,” Kelsey says.


One of Durbin’s biggest tips is to have all of the details you want to be photographed — heirlooms, shoes, jewelry, stationery — in the room with you and organized at the start of the morning.

She also recommends, if the bride does not have allergies, that she get a new perfume for her wedding day.

“Every time you spray it after that day, then it is a memory for you,” says Durbin.



The Groom’s Suite: Moments to Capture

Typically, men take less time to get ready than women. On the day of the wedding, they might put extra care into their hairstyle, but Durbin points out it could still take them only 15 minutes to be ceremony ready. Photography-wise, most pictures in the groom’s room are candids.

“I usually ask them to be mostly dressed before we get there other than their jackets and ties. We capture candids with groomsmen and a toast before they head out,” says Golish.


Other photo ops to take advantage of include the groom and groomsmen showing off any matching socks, gift opening, playing games while they wait, and posing with the father of the groom.

“Sometimes, I do also recommend for not only the brides to have details photographed but the groom to do so as well, like a grandfather’s watch, the details of the jacket, the nice shoes he is wearing,” says Durbin.


Letters of Love

Some couples opt to share a private first look before the ceremony, but for those who want to wait to see one another at the end of the aisle, exchanging letters can create an extra bit of affection.

Kelsey and Max got ready in the same hotel, which allowed Kelsey to send a bridesmaid down to Max’s suite to make the letter exchange.


“Max was very poetic and liked using metaphors. [Reading his letter] reminded me of his love and alleviated any worries I had throughout the day,” says Kelsey. “He put a couple of little funnies in there that made me relax. I held it together until the end of the letter when he wrote, ‘Whenever I am with you I am home’ and that is when the tears happened.”

The letter exchange is one of Durbin’s favorite moments in the day to capture.

“It makes the day more real that morning when they are reading the letter and they tear up, and it’s because they got a refresher that reminds them why they are there,” she says.

Categories: Bridal Buzz, From the Magazine, Weddings