Photographers often plan stylized shoots for publication, portfolio, networking or experience, and a lot of photographers new to the industry have asked me how to do it. While I’m not an expert on event planning, I’m very happy with how it turned out and would be glad to share how this adventure happened.
I spent just under two weeks in July planning the shoot. It was originally going to be a small shoot doing some portfolio shots for a new florist, but I figured that if I was going to plan something I might as well go all-out! I got to work on contacting vendors to get everything lined up, but I soon ran into a few hiccups.
First, the florist had to cancel, so I was on the hunt for a new one. In the middle of wedding season, that’s easier said than done. Thankfully, Paige from Flora (who is a good friend of mine) and my grandmother pulled through and were able to make all the flowers happen!
After that, I realized that in the middle of wedding season I also wouldn’t be able to find the gorgeous tent, tons of draping, chandeliers, and twinkle lights that I was planning to use. I started the hunt for a new “venue” of sorts, and eventually decided on a pergola from Costco! It was a nightmare to assemble, didn’t fit in the back of a mini-van, and weighed about 300 lbs—but it looked amazing!
I hit a few more roadblocks and realized I would need help. Thank goodness I found Rena! She’s an amazing wedding planner who stepped in and helped organize things and make sure all of my wild ideas came together. Along the way, I also got tons of help from my best friend, my sister, boyfriend, grandparents, and parents! One highlight was driving out to a church in Ferintosh, AB to pick up six church pews I found online. It took a trip with my sister and a trip with my boyfriend to get all of them. We then had to sand the church pews down and paint them white, and the morning of the photo shoot I was still adding coats! Luckily Heather (event designer) and Kaitlyn (my best friend) came to lend some helping hands and we were able to get them all painted and looking fantastic.
Bringing together the sweetheart table, table cloths, and centrepieces was an adventure of its own! The table was actually one of the first things I found, and everything else sort of got planned around it. Even after I had picked it up and (of course) painted it white, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to use it, but I knew it was going to be a part of this! I did know which linens I wanted, but found out that there wasn’t anywhere local to rent them. After debating going without them, I finally decided I needed them and found somewhere in California that could rush ship them in time (though I paid an arm and a leg). All the while I’d been running around to every thrift store within driving distance to find all the brass pieces to use as centrepieces.
Finally it came to the day of the shoot. My mom—bless her heart—had been running all over the city finding things for me for two weeks (not to mention baking a bunch of little pies as table favours), and of course on the day of the shoot I needed her to run out and get just a couple more things while I kept painting pews. Once we had everything, we loaded up a mini-van and SUV to their max with tables, chairs, and every wedding accessory you can imagine (including dresses, shoes, and suits), and headed out to the shoot location (only a couple hours late). Once we got there, we unloaded and got to work on assembling the pergola. With four truckloads of stuff (thanks Dad!) on location, things were finally coming together.
It took about 6 people and probably 7 hours to get the pergola together. While Rena & Kaitlyn worked on it, I was running around like a mad woman. People kept arriving: the chef, the models, the make-up artist & hair stylist; my dad was trying to unload vehicles and set up the big stuff, and my mom was taking care of all the details, rimming martini glasses with sprinkles and helping out with all the people. I even arranged for flower girls, so we had kids running around (and catching frogs) on top of everything! After a lot of hard work by everyone involved, we were finally ready to shoot.
We shot the sunset ceremony around 7pm. It was spectacular! Then it was on to the reception, making final tweaks to all the little details. We finally got it all set up, with the pies, cakes, candy buffet, guest tables, sweetheart table, lit candles, and twinkle lights, and then it was time to shoot. With the sun setting quickly, I photographed the couple for 20 minutes and then rushed to get shots of all the details that everyone had worked so hard to create.
As it got darker and darker, there were still lots of last-minute fixes being made and I started to worry. With no extension cords long enough to reach, we had no way of lighting the area once the sun had set—but there’s always headlights! We set up 3 cars with their high beams on, doubled the number of candles, and carried on. When we wrapped up around midnight, it was cold, damp, and pitch black out. The models left, Krystina (whose yard we were in) finally could go to bed, and we started to take things down and pack up.
The next day, the model (Rae Lynn) and I went back to finish up a few more shots I wanted to get in. Jen, the fabulous make-up artist, re-did her make up and fixed up her hair. We managed to finish up all the details we needed to, I cleaned it all up, cleaned up part of Krystina’s house, gathered all my stuff from the yard, returned all the rentals, and then went back later that night with my dad to take down the pergola.
I had a wedding to shoot the day after all of this, and had to get on a plane to Vancouver the day after that for another wedding. It was a ridiculous time to plan the shoot, but in hindsight it was definitely worth it and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out! It was gorgeous and so romantic. We all took a step back once it was set up and my mom said “Someone should get married here—this is too gorgeous to waste. Call your friends see if any of them want to get married!” It was that gorgeous!
Big thanks to all the vendors involved in this shoot, and thanks to my friends and family for all your help! I definitely have a new appreciation of how difficult it can be to plan a wedding.
Rae Lynn & John were such great sports, modelling for me for the whole day,
they did a fantastic job and I hope one day I get to photograph their real wedding!
I greatly appreciate al of the hard work and time of the fabulous vendors involved.
Photographer: Milton Photography | Cake: Style Cakes | Catering: Chef Sheridan | Wedding Planner: Rena Elise Weddings | Event Designer: FY Design | Make-up: Jack’d Up Makeup Artistry | Hair: Amy whitham hair and makeup artistry | Bridal Bouquet and Pew markers: Flora | Bridal Hanger: ivision | Chair Ruffles: A Chair to Remember | Chevron linens: La Tavola | Church Pews, Head table, cake plates, centre pieces: Milton Photography Prop Closet | Custom painted shoes: Arttrocity | Dress, veil & Jewellery: Novelle Bridal Shop | Gold Sequin Linens & Rentals: Special Event Rentals | Invites: The Paper Lover Co. | Love cake topper: ivision | Ottomans & Charger Plates: Elegant Touches | Suit: Derks