First thing's first. Take a step away from the laptop, turn on your favorite jam, and do a little happy dance! You are getting married to your sweetheart! This is such an incredibly special time, and the fact that you are on this page--I already feel honored that you would consider me for such a momental celebration. This guide will hopefully be the perfect starting point as you begin planning your big day. From packages, to timelines, all the way to the day of the wedding, the goal of this guide is to help you understand what it will be like to be a CDP (Caitlin D. Photography) Bride!
though, admittedly, it took me a little longer--but man has it been a wonderful ride. I am sure you can relate right now. I mean, how many times have you said the word "fiance" with a huge smile on your face this week? I know how incredible this season can be, and I want to add a little more joy to yours.
As you might already know, I'm Caitlin! I am a lover of Jesus, short walks to the coffee maker, and all things crime on TV. I am a photographer based in Cleveland, TN, but more importantly I am a wife to an incredible man. We have been married for almost nine years now, and it has been the best decision on my life. We met in a classroom at Lee University. Brian knew within the first two weeks that we would get married, though, admittedly, it took me a little longer--but man has it been a wonderful ride. I am sure you can relate right now. I mean, how many times have you said the word "fiance" with a huge smile on your face this week? I know how incredible this season can be, and I want to add a little more joy to yours.
As you might already know, I'm Caitlin! I am a lover of Jesus, short walks to the coffee maker, and all things crime on TV. I am a photographer based in Cleveland, TN, but more importantly I am a wife to an incredible man. We have been married for almost nine years now, and it has been the best decision on my life. We met in a classroom at Lee University. Brian knew within the first two weeks that we would get married
8-10 hours Wedding Coverage
Private Online Gallery
All the best images from the day
Image Print Release
$50 off engagement session
Often includes: Prep and Detail Shots, Bridal Portraits, Bridal Party Portraits, Family Portraits, ceremony, and reception
6 hours Wedding Coverage
Private Online Gallery
Minimum of 200 images
Image Print Release
Often includes: Bridal Party Portraits, Family Portraits, detail shots, ceremony, and an hour of reception depending on time.
4 hours Wedding Coverage
Private Online Gallery
Minimum of 100 images
Image Print Release
Often includes: Bridal Party Portraits, Family Portraits, and ceremony.
Only recommended for micro weddings or small elopements
Second Shooter: $250
Engagement Session: $200
Wedding Album: $450
12:00-12:45 Bridal Details
Every bride loves having those beautiful shots of her bridal details. It’s an important part of the story and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc. These shots allow me to get warmed up for the rest of the big day. I normally like to allow at least 45 minutes for this part of the day. While I’m shooting details, I’m also capturing some shots of the bride and her girls getting ready! Meanwhile, my second shooter will be with the boys, taking candid photos as well as groom portraits.
12:45-1:15 Bridal Prep
After the details have been photographed, it’s time for the bride to get into her dress! This is a big moment! I usually ask the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids to be dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress. This ensures that everyone will look nice in those images. After the bride is in her gown, she can put on her jewelry, veil, shoes, etc. and I will shoot some additional bridal portraits!
First Look 1:30
This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day! I will find the perfect location for my couple’s first look prior to the getting ready portion of the day! Don’t stress about that one bit! I will make sure the location is private and as secluded as possible.
After the bride and groom take their time with the First Look, I will begin taking a few romantic portraits of the two of them while the initial excitement is still present! I will find the locations for these shots as well! Remember, the LIGHT determines where we shoot and so I can’t decide on portrait locations until the day-of. As we shoot these portraits, the bridal party can start making their way to us for Bridal Party portraits!
Bridal Party Portraits 2:20-2:50
Now it’s time for Bridal Party shots! I buffer in extra time throughout the day just in case we have some unexpected things that hold us up! One way to make sure we stay on schedule for bridal party portraits is to have someone put the boutonnieres on the guys BEFORE they arrive for portraits. During Bridal Party portraits, I will take shots of the guys and girls both separately AND together! After bridal party portraits are complete, the bride will go into hiding so that early guests don’t sneak a peek and the ushers will begin their duties.
Bride in Hiding 3:00-3:30
..... great shots of the guys and girls both separately AND together! After bridal party portraits are complete, the bride will go into hiding so that early guests don’t sneak a peek and the ushers will begin their duties.
Reception Details 3:00-3:20
If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, I will use this time to shoot the reception decor UN-TOUCHED. If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area if possible so that I can grab some great shots of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats!
It’s time to get married!! Most ceremonies are 30 minutes long. If your ceremony is longer than 30 mins, we’ll make adjustments to the timeline! Cherish these moments! Your ceremony will pass by so quickly!
Family Portraits 4:10-4:40
Family formals normally take place immediately following the ceremony. It’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time. We’ll need about 30 minutes for family formals and I will send a questionnaire before the wedding where you can list out the shots that you want. I recommend shooting portraits outdoors if possible so that they resemble more natural family portraits, especially if the ceremony location is dark!
A Few “Just Married” Portraits 4:40-4:55
I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few “Just Married” portraits right after family formals! Also, because it will be July, the sun should be absolutely DREAMY at this hour!
Reception 5:00-send off!
This is when the bridal party lines up for introductions and the party begins!! By this part of the day, my timeline isn’t as strict. I work off of the natural light and so after the sun is set, my portrait time is over and I begin focusing on the reception events! This also includes your big exit!
Should I get a second shooter?
In my opinion, second shooters are a must! Although I am fully capable of shooting your day, a second shooter helps relieve some of the anxiety of a busy day by capturing candids, shouting out names during family formals, and running for boutonnières when all the groomsmen show up without them. During a first look or walking down the aisle, a second shooter can capture the groom's face while I get the brides. If we get behind in the timeline, a second shooter can go take groom shots while I wrap up bridal portraits. And the biggest reason: more photos! A second shooter is the perfect addition to any package.
Do you travel?
YES! I love to travel. All venues within 2 hours of Cleveland, TN are free! I generally charge the IRS travel rate for miles outside of two hours. Depending on package you choose, any venue over 3+ hours might call for a hotel as well.
Should I book an engagement session?
Absolutely. Engagement sessions are the perfect opportunity to practice for your wedding day! We will be spending approx. two hours together for an engagement session. That is plenty of time for you to become comfortable with and confident in me. You will know all the poses and directions. That way, on your wedding day when we are on a time crunch, you will know exactly what to do!
Do you offer prints?
I do! When your gallery is delivered, you will have the opportunity to order tangible prints of multiple sizes as well as canvas prints. All of my packages do include a print release so you can print at other locations. Keep in mind, though, not all printers are created equal. If you want guaranteed high quality, beautiful images, you should definitely print with me or another highly recommended company.
Should I have a first look?
I personally love first looks for a few reasons. First, I love the concept of a bride and groom's first time seeing each other is for them and them alone. To have an intimate moment together before the rush of the wedding day is so special. Second, we get to have ideal lighting. Because your photographer can pick the perfect location for a first look, you can expect perfect pictures. And last, with a first look you can take a ton more photos before the wedding rather than waiting until after the ceremony. Without a first look, you will have to take all family formals, full bridal party portraits, and couple pictures between the ceremony and reception. This means your guests will have to wait a little bit before the party gets started. With a first look, we can do basically all the pictures except for some family formals all before you say, "I do!"
Do you require a down payment?
To book a wedding package with me, I do require a $400 non-refundable down payment. The moment you book with me, I am yours until your wedding day! I will be turning away any bride who requests your wedding date. The $400 ensures that if for some reason you need to cancel and I have no time to book another wedding for that date, I can still feed my beagle!
First things first.
I am so excited for your engagement session and I’m so honored to help you create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime. I’ve created this guide to help you get the most out of your photos, and by the time you’ve read through this, you'll have all your questions answered and feel more than ready and prepared for your session. Then I’ll take care of the rest! Your only job is to be yourself, laugh a lot and let me create photos you’ll love forever. I can’t wait to get you in front of my camera!
Choosing time & date
I photograph almost all engagement sessions using only natural light unless there is a special request. This because this type of light makes for some stunning photographs! I begin all portrait sessions approximately two hours before the scheduled sunrise or sunset during “the golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. Use a sunrise/sunset calculator online to determine the scheduled sunset for the date and location you’d like to do your session. Then, just subtract two hours to figure out your start time. Always remember that the sun sets much earlier during the colder months of the year and much later during the warmer months, so make sure to factor that in when choosing your portrait session date, especially if you’re taking off work or have evening plans afterward. To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready so you can arrive a few minutes early to your session and be ready to start on time. I’m only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so I’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down. If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half, and if you’re wearing one, arrive in that.
Selecting the right location
The location of your engagement session is up to you! For most of my sessions, outdoor environments are always first choice. I love shooting in wide-open natural spaces because the light is divine, especially during golden hour. It is best if your engagement session location is meaningful to you. Maybe the area where you met, where the proposal happened, or a park you visit often. If you don’t have location in mind, no worries! I am more than happy to offer suggestions for some great spots throughout Cleveland and Chattanooga.
Think outside the box
This is the time to think outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone in your personal or professional network, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private estate, country club or resort. Maybe it’s a family ranch, upscale hotel or even an airplane hangar. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. Another idea is to think of your first date or place that is special to you as a couple. Call ahead and see if we can organize a time to shoot. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with. Plus, if something seems out of reach, just remember: you never know until you ask!
Style your session
Want your engagement images to look more editorial? Bring a little extra something with you! A freshly-picked bouquet for you to hold, or fresh flowers to put on something else, like a bicycle basket, tree swing, picnic basket, car bumper or rowboat, is a fun way bring a little extra romance to everyday objects. Whether it’s larger items like classic cars, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even incorporating just one extra styled item, could be a fun way to make your session more unique.
Don't be afraid to dress up
Have you thought about rocking a romantic gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your engagement session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, a lot of my clients love Rent the Runway for their session because it’s such an affordable way to feel like a million bucks. Other clients love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into their closet!
Say "yes" to the dress
Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter the female body — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! We recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two.
One or two looks
Most of my clients who choose two outfits will bring one “wow” dress, and then another shorter sun dress or cute jeans and top for a more casual “us on a date” feel. But if you want to bring two “wow” dresses and forgo the more casual dress altogether, give yourself permission to do it! Remember, though, you don’t have to bring two looks if it’s too stressful or you’d rather just stick to one fabulous look. One outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love and another you’re not very excited about. So, one or two? It’s really up to you! Most importantly though, choose something that you love and will feel confident in.
When choosing colors for your outfits, we recommend selecting lighter tones and more muted shades. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the eye focus on the way you feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments.
Coordinating the look
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiance’s, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palettes coordinate, but don’t necessarily “match.” You should each aim to wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family. So if you’re wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then he could wear a navy coat with gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square. Now he has his own dominant color (navy) while still incorporating a few touches of your color palette. Most of our brides choose their dress first, and then put together their fiance’s outfit based on that. That’s why we have a section for each of you.
Flattering your figure
In my experience, every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what area that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that complement your natural features is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos. Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms. Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed-toed heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference! Be aware that if you choose an outdoor location that takes a little work to get to, you might want to choose a shoe that has some protection—boots work great for these areas!
Make a statement
Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not be as noticeable on camera. Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown or bouquet can be a really romantic touch as well.
Go pro: hair & makeup
Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of our brides’ checklists because it looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. Whether it’s lash extensions or blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream. This is the perfect opportunity to have your trial with YOUR own make up artist for the wedding day. If you’re working with a makeup artist, have her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Plus, that’s the type of light we’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. Most of our brides feel like their makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a normal day, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it just right for the camera — and our brides always love the final result.
Skip the spray tan
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, I recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully and naturally.
Show off the ring
I will always try to get a shot of the ring on its own and on your hand during your engagement session. Your ring will be center stage, so give yourself permission to get it cleaned and your nails done, too! To make your ring really sparkle in photos, have it professionally cleaned by your jeweler (They will clean it for free!) or use appropriate jewelry cleaner before your session.
Match your location
Downtown: jeans/pants (or a jumper/romper), a cute top, and a jacket. Or a cute date night dress!
Field, meadow: Flowy dresses! Think bohemian, ethereal, whimsical magic! Tulle and lace are perfect materials or a cute floral dress from altr’d state or a similar store. There is nothing more breathtaking than a sunset photo with a girl spinning in a dress!
Woods: For a forest feel, the same from field and meadow apply, but you can also do some flannel, sweaters, felt hats, and boots for a more fall feel!
Water: Heading for the lake or river for your shoot? Go for a short dress or skirt! This way you can get in the water without getting soaked, especially if heading to another location after. If you don’t mind getting soaked, though, a long dress that flows and moves in the water can be gorgeous!
Park: Blue jean miniskirts, jeans, or short dresses all look cute! Perfect for a stroll on the greenway or a sidewalk.
A good jacket
Men look most striking in a well-tailored suit jacket. Blazers broaden a man's shoulders while still cutting in at the waist. If he doesn’t have one, now’s the perfect time to invest in something he’ll wear for the rest of his life! The best part? It’s a lot less expensive than you might think! While custom suits can cost thousands of dollars, some of the most well-known brands have off-the-rack suits in their stores for a fraction of the price. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye.
A layered look
Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s hot outside, trust me when I say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
It's all in the details
Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from his legs and feet and place it where you want it: on the face you fell in love with. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts and sandals at home. Dress pants, nice jeans or colored pants work best. Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any suit. If two suits are too stressful, no problem! One look will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to complement both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, you win.
How to prep your man
Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for one to two hours, because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your guy. Tell him why you chose me and my style of photography. Show him your three favorite images that I’ve taken, explain why you love them and express to him how much it means to you. Trust me, once he knows it’s important, he’ll light up the camera for you! The most common thing I hear from guys before photo sessions is this: because of a bad experience in the past, they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time I’m done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had!
After your session
Don’t forget to plan a dinner date. You’re already going to be all dressed up! Why not take advantage of it? We know the wedding planning process can feel all-consuming, so take some time after the session just for the two of you to relax and have some fun together.
One final note
I know I just gave you a lot to think about. I created this guide to help make your engagement session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Your future marriage is the most important thing, and I want your engagement session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!
About one month before the wedding, its important to get all the fine details in line to make sure your day goes as smoothly as a wedding day can go--and I've made it easy! Just follow the checklist and click the arrows below, ensuring that we map out the specifics for your big day.
By now you should have received your timeline (or it is soon on the way). Make sure to go through it one more time, noting any issues you might have. Please make sure to either email me with any concerns or let's set up a phone call to go over it!
*Also, if your DJ, Pastor, or Wedding Coordinator have a more detailed list of events (when the cake is being cut, order of the ceremony, etc.) please send these to me so I can make sure I don't miss anything!
Some of the most cherished images taken on your big day are family formals! These pictures are generally taken immediately following the ceremony. Although they are important, they can also be the most stressful. If your family is anything like mine, getting a large group of people to listen to instructions can be daunting, and even more so if you are throwing groupings together the day of. To make your day run a little smoother, fill out the family form below (just click the image!). If you have added a second shooter to your package, they will use this form to call family members forward for a quick, organized shoot! If you haven't hired a second shooter, this is a great job for the maid of honor (or a bossy family member! ha!).
As your photographer, I would love to gift your incredible vendors with some beautiful images to add to their portfolios and post on their social media accounts. Please click the image below and fill out the vendor questionnaire with the name of the company as well as their email address so I can send them their images. This will also help me when I go to write your blog post!