I have been thinking a lot about my last destination wedding with Jen & John and thought it would be a great idea to do a little writeup about my experience (both for brides and other photographers)—And no, this is not just to meet my one blog post per week quota to satisfy my 101 Goals (Honest!)
My trip with Jen & John was a last minute thing. We made the arrangements the month before the trip, right after they found me to do their engagement photos. On top of that, their wedding was right in the middle of one of the busiest times of the year—March Break. Needless to say, making these arrangements was a bit tricky.
Book Carefully (Read twice, book once)
We ran into a bit of a snag in terms of booking. Since I didn’t take care of booking my own travel, I didn’t follow through with my normal routine of triple-checking the details. I woke up exactly one month before I was to fly out to Mexico with an email in my inbox from Expedia saying I had missed my flight that morning. After a few panicked called between airlines and the bride-to-be, we sorted everything out. Tuesday February 17 looks really similar to Tuesday March 18 at a glance when they are displayed in numerical format. We laugh at it now, but for the first 3 hours of that day I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. (Now, there’s a mental image for you.)
A Day of Rest
With the last minute nature of my trip, I was only gone for 4 nights. Two days of travel (with connections) and 2 days of shooting (wedding and TTD). With all the backing up and editing time in between shoots as well as my insane decision to wake up at 4 a.m. the morning of the wedding to get pictures of the sunrise, it didn’t leave me any time to breathe. Destination weddings are a lot more work than a local wedding (though well worth it, in my opinion), but a day of rest for each day of shooting really helps.
I am not talking trade embargoes here but rather customs. I over-research everything, and it’s definitely a good habit when it comes to travel. Make sure you go through customs requirements with a fine-toothed comb. Since I travel with a lot of photo gear, there is one restriction that was of particular interest to me; Mexico has a 2 camera limit. I personally like to bring 3 cameras to the weddings that I shoot (main, backup, and IR). So, for those brides who would like me to go to Mexico with them to capture their wedding and would also like some infrared photos: Will you please bring my camera with you? Please? Jen was a great sport and took my third camera with her to avoid any possible issues at customs. Luckily I got the green light, meaning that I got to avoid any questions by security as to why I was carrying an indestructable case full of camera gear.
Negotiate Details When You Get There
A lot of deals can be made by negotiating rates once you are there in person. These resorts have all the add-ons you could possibly want on hand, so details of your wedding can be added or subtracted at any time, and at a reduced rate. Go in a couple of days before your ceremony and negotiate some deals with resort staff.
Move It On Up
The tendency with destination weddings is to have a later ceremony (around 3 or 4-ish), but this leaves little time for creative formals and family group shots. The light in Mexico changes quickly! It can be noticeably different between shots closer to sunset. By moving the ceremony up a bit you will be in better light for your photos. Either that, or consider some unconventional creative formals before the ceremony. Either way it will give you more time in better light to get the best shots. (Note: This tip is mostly for weddings on the east coast which don’t get sunsets. If you are on the Pacific side, you can skip this one.)
Destination weddings have the potential to be much less stressful than a “conventional” wedding. You have a resort full of staff that handle weddings a few times a week, so they know exactly what to do, and they do it well. When I was up at 4 a.m. waiting for the sun to rise, the staff were already out in the dark setting up the ceremony location with chairs, drapes, and tables. No need to worry about a special guest being late, or guests waiting for too long between the ceremony and dinner. They are close to their rooms and friends, so it’s fun for all.
I hope this little writeup helps at least a couple of people, whether you’re planning a destination wedding or planning to photograph one. It’s a bit of a departure from my normal posts, I know, but it’s definitely information worth sharing. Next week I’ll get back to sharing photos—I promise!