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How to Stay Present on Your Wedding Day: Advice from a Candid Wedding Photographer

Your wedding day is one of the most magical and memorable moments of your life. As a Portland wedding photographer specializing in documentary-style, candid wedding photography, I understand the importance of capturing those genuine, in-the-moment emotions that tell a unique love story.

In a city as vibrant and eclectic as Portland, where unconventional is celebrated, it's only fitting that your wedding day reflects your personalities and priorities. This blog post is dedicated to couples who want to prioritize having as much fun as possible on their wedding day while embracing the unpredictable and cherishing every fleeting moment.

The Power of Presence

In a world where weddings are often seen as meticulously planned events, it's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of logistics, schedules, and perfection. However, the true essence of a wedding lies in the moments that unfold naturally, unscripted, and filled with genuine emotions. To achieve this, the first step is embracing the power of presence. Read on for 13 tips on staying present on your wedding day.

How to be present on your wedding day from a candid wedding photographer

1. Mindful Moments Before the Ceremony

Start your day with intention. Take a few moments together before the ceremony to breathe, connect, and appreciate the significance of the day. Whether it's a quiet stroll through a Portland park or a shared cup of coffee at your favorite local spot, these mindful moments can set the tone for a day filled with love and laughter.

Pro tip: Make sure to bring your photographer with you for these moments. My favorite candid wedding moments are the ones that aren't in the traditional script. This is also why I recommend booking a minimum of 8 hours of coverage if you want to prioritize a documentary-style wedding gallery. The more time your photographer has to capture you in your natural element, the less stressed you'll feel during the day to get all the shots within a certain window of time.

2. Unplugged Ceremony and Reception

Encourage your guests to put away their phones and cameras during the ceremony and key moments of the reception. This not only ensures that your professional photos shine but also creates a more intimate atmosphere. Everyone will be fully present, experiencing the joy of your union without distractions.

Pro tip: Have your officiant remind everyone to put their phones on silent during the ceremony. Even if phones are away they can still cause an unwelcome disruption that pulls you out of the moment.

3. Embracing Imperfections

Your wedding day is not going to be perfect. You'll run into stressors, inconveniences, or things that didn't go according to plan. You want to first recognize that not everything will go according to plan, and secondly you want to accept that's perfectly okay. Embracing imperfections can lead to unexpected moments that become cherished memories. Lean into these imperfections as a little bit of flavor or extra quirk to your special day.

4. Weather-Proof Your Attitude

Portland's weather can be unpredictable, but instead of stressing about rain or unexpected heatwaves, embrace the unexpected and plan for the worst. Have a backup plan for outdoor ceremonies, and if the weather decides to surprise you, let it become a part of your story. Some of the most stunning and memorable photos happen when couples dance in the rain or share a spontaneous kiss under an unexpected ray of sunlight.

Pro tip: Some of the "quote unquote worst" weather can make for some of the best photos. Heavy fog, pouring rain, and even sweltering heat can all create incredible candid wedding photos that really tell a story. So don't sweat the forecast.

5. Flexibility is Key

Approach your wedding day with flexibility. Whether it's a change in the schedule or an unexpected guest appearance, go with the flow. Remember, the more flexible you are, the more room there is for unexpected moments of joy and spontaneity. If you want ultimate control and flexibility? Plan your own backyard wedding that prioritizes intimate experiences with your family and friends.

Pro tip: This is especially important when it comes down to the schedule of the day. Make sure you leave plenty of wiggle room between major events and always assume you're going to need more time than you expect.

6. Prioritizing Fun Over Tradition

Your wedding day should be a celebration of your love and a reflection of your unique personalities. Break away from traditional expectations and prioritize having fun over conforming to norms. One of my favorite weddings I've ever shot was a dark fantasy backyard wedding in Portland that included a cloaking ceremony and mead toasts. Absolutely iconic.

Pro tip: Make a list of everything you would do for your wedding if money, tradition, and family obligation weren't factors.

7. Ditch the Scripted Poses

As a documentary-style photographer, I thrive on capturing candid moments that tell a story. Instead of adhering strictly to posed photos, let me capture the spontaneous laughter, stolen glances, and genuine interactions that define your relationship. The authenticity of these moments far surpasses any posed photograph.

Pro tip: If you have your heart set on taking group shots, make them fun and interesting. Swap props around or move throughout the frame. I can say from experience on both sides of the camera that the less time spent on posed group shots, the happier everyone will be. Deep dive into my comprehensive list of the must-have wedding photos (and the ones you can skip).

8. Infuse Personal Touches

Whether it's incorporating elements of your love story into the decor or choosing a non-traditional venue that holds sentimental value, infuse your wedding day with personal touches. This not only makes the day uniquely yours but also creates a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.

9. Creating a Mindful Experience

Your wedding day is a celebration, not a checklist of tasks to be completed. Focus on creating a mindful experience for yourselves and your guests. When you focus more on the experience than the expectation, your wedding will automatically become a much more mindful and fulfilling day. That's why I love shooting candid wedding photos: they tell the true love story rather than the overplayed traditions.

10. Take Breaks Together

Amidst the whirlwind of activities, find moments to steal away together. Whether it's a quiet corner during the reception or a brief escape during the dance party, take breaks to savor the day together.

11. Engage with Your Guests

Your wedding day is a celebration of love not just between you and your partner but among your friends and family. Engage with your guests, share stories, and create connections. These moments of connection will be reflected in the candid shots that tell the complete story of your wedding day.

12. Cherishing Every Moment

In the end, your wedding day is a collection of precious moments that come together to form a beautiful tapestry of memories. Cherish every smile, every tear, and every unexpected twist, for these are the threads that make your story unique.

13. Create a Memory Jar

Set up a memory jar at your wedding where guests can leave notes, well-wishes, or anecdotes. Open it on your first anniversary and relive the joy and love that surrounded your wedding day.

Ok one more bonus entry!

As a documentary-style photographer, my goal is to provide you with a collection of photos that transport you back to the emotions and experiences of your wedding day. Take time to reflect on these photos, relishing in the laughter, the love, and the genuine moments that define your unique love story.

Pro tip: Get prints. Add on the Polaroid options. Get the extra video. I promise you'll want the extra shots.

In a city as eclectic and lively as Portland, your wedding day can be a true reflection of your personalities and priorities. By staying present, embracing imperfections, prioritizing fun over tradition, and creating a mindful experience, you're not just having a wedding; you're crafting an unforgettable journey into the joyous celebration of your love.

Are you ready to book your documentary-style wedding photo package? Get in touch today!


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