Wedding photography advice for mums

The Mother Figure’s Guide to Wedding Photos

If you’re a mother of the bride, a mother of the groom, a step-mum, or a mother figure going by any other name … this is for you.

Hello, mums!

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing your son, daughter, or someone you’re very close to is getting married. Congratulations! It’s an incredible journey. 

Now, sure, the two lovebirds are the reason for the wedding. But it’s a big day for you too. And it can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Not least of which is the overwhelm and confusion about how much wedding photography has changed over the years.

“We were married in 1972 when colour photography was just coming in. Our photographer was a local man who did all kinds of work and had a set ‘wedding package’ with mainly black and white photos with a few colour thrown in. They came in stiff card frames with paper covers – a far cry from the presentation of Katie and Brett’s!” Sally Norris, Katie’s Mum

I’d love to help alleviate that and make you feel comfortable about the photos. So take 5, grab a cuppa, and read on.

Wedding photography now vs then

I’ve been photographing weddings for 15 years, and it’s a totally different world now from when I started back in 2007. And even more different to when I got married myself, just over 20 years ago.

Back then, digital wedding photography was only just becoming a thing. So the photos from my wedding are probably more similar to yours than the ones I give to my couples today. 

Our entire wedding was shot on film, with just 40 images from the whole day. They’re in a standard white album, with one picture per page, behind either a rectangle or oval card mount. (No fancy choices in those days!). And they were mostly formal portraits and group photos. None of this modern stylish storytelling stuff! 

So I guess my experience bridges the wedding photography generation gap.

Which is why I’ve written this guide to walk you through the experience you’ll get from me, and give you my best wedding photography advice for mums. Because these photos are for you too, and I want you to love them.

What to expect on the wedding day

Every photographer has a different approach to documenting a wedding. So it’s probably easier to start by saying what you won’t find in mine …

You won’t be forced to do anything that doesn’t feel like you. You won’t be stuck posing for endless group shots, unable to be a good host and chat with your guests. And you certainly won’t be standing around waiting for that perfect shot whilst the vicar gets fidgety or the beef overcooks.

Now, we will create some gorgeous group shots and portraits of the couple. Because they’re important family heirlooms. But they’ll be done quickly and efficiently so you can all get back to enjoying yourselves.

And while you make memories, I’ll fit into the crowd and capture natural photos of whatever’s happening.

I’ll be there from the make-up artist’s first brush stroke, right through to the first dance. (Maybe even longer, if the newly-weds book party photos.) I’ll document the love, the laughter, the vows, the speeches … and maybe a big reveal

So you’ll get a beautiful bank of memories that help you relive the special day over and over and over.

“There were many differences in the way Sarah took our daughter’s wedding photographs to when I was married 33 years ago. Our images were all staged and very formal. Whilst Rebecca and Thomas wished to have formal photographs, they also wished to have informal images taken. 

Having two photographers on the day was such a good idea as they can work together to produce a superb mix of subjects and emotions, and cover a greater number of guests in a short period of time. 

The other major difference is that Rebecca and Thomas’ images are so much clearer. The digital images can be saved and transferred to family and friends with ease. Purchasing wedding albums was so simple. And you remain in control because you have all the images to play with. Having Sarah’s website to access the images was also a great idea and a very good way to share the photographs.” Alison Hart, Rebecca’s mum

Now, if you’re like many of the mums I meet, you’re might wonder if there’s anything you should think about or prepare. I’ve got you. Here’s how to look your best, feel comfortable being photographed, and get photos you love as much as the couple …

Wedding photography tips – for mums and mother figures

If you’re worried about the house being photo-ready, how you’ll look in the pictures, or whether you’ll even be in them … read on for everything you need to know to feel prepared for the photos.

1. Join in with the pre-ceremony preparations

The wedding photos will start with capturing those all-important final preparations. There’s hair to be styled, make-up to be applied, ties to… umm, tie. And those final moments as your current family unit. And you can make the most of it by giving yourself time to soak up the excitement.

I often see mums and mother figures shy away from the camera during the morning preparations. But try to ignore the camera and be part of everything that’s going on. Because there are so many special moments you might miss. Like laughing with your VIP about their teenage hairstyles while they have their hair done, watching their reaction as they open their wedding day gift from their partner (that you secretly helped organise), sharing a quiet moment as you zip up the dress, iron a shirt, fix a buttonhole … 

Make the most of every moment. And then relive the memory through the photos.

2. Get dressed before the star of the show

If you plan to help your son, daughter or loved one into their outfit, think about what you want to wear at that point. Because it’ll be immortalised forever in the photos. 

Do you want to be all dressed up? In your ‘mother of the bride’ robe? Or in an old favourite? 

You do you. The only thing that matters is to think about it before the day, rather than look back at the photos and wish you were wearing something different. 

3. Don’t take on too much

It’s natural to want to help and take care of everyone. But make sure you get what you need too. 

Don’t help everyone else to the point that you force yourself into a last-minute rush. Because if you’re stressed, or not happy with how you look, your smile won’t be genuine. And that just breaks my heart.

So plan ahead. Delegate. Order a grazing platter for snacks. Put a bridesmaid on drinks duty. Ask an usher to run errands. It doesn’t always have to be you!

That way you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy having your hair and make-up done, ensure you’re happy with your outfit, remember your favourite jewellery … 

Because when it comes to the photos, you’ve got to feel good to look good.

Speaking of which …

4. Choose an outfit that feels and looks good 

Those high heels that look fabulous but pinch your toes? Probably not the best idea if you want a lovely shot of you all walking through the village to the church. Try to find an outfit that you can wear all day, and still feel just as comfy at the end of the day as the moment you put it on. Or if you fall in love with something totally impractical, perhaps pick a second outfit for later in the day.

And then there’s looking good … When you choose your outfit, ask someone to take photos from different angles to help you decide. If you feel good about every angle, you’re onto a winner. Because those natural photos can capture you from anywhere!

Think about what the rest of the wedding party and any other mums will wear too. The group photos will look best if you colour-coordinate.

5. Work with the couple to create a list of group photos you all love

Family photos are important. They’re often the first pictures to be printed. You might even already have a spot saved on the wall! 

But fitting group photos into your day – and around the documentary wedding photography – takes careful planning.

Set aside some time with the couple before the wedding and have a chat about the group photos they’re planning. Make it fun and do it over Sunday lunch or a game of scrabble, so you have plenty of time to discuss the options.

The couple will certainly have strong ideas about what they want. But you should be happy too. It’s best to keep the list fairly short; ideally to five or six groups if possible, so they don’t take over the day. But if we need to do more, it’s better to agree on extras before the day, than ask for more as we go along. That way, I can ensure they’re well organised and efficient.

“I did want to capture my family in various groups. Making a list for Sarah of the photographs we wanted was a really good thing to do before the wedding and ensured that we remembered everything on the day. Having good groomsmen instructed by Sarah to help organise the guests made the whole formal photograph period so much easier and such fun.” Alison Hart, mother of the bride

6. Don’t worry about what your house looks like

Worried your home isn’t photogenic enough for the getting ready photos? Too cramped, needs decorating, mid-renovation, not stylish enough, too messy … 

Please don’t fret. The point of preparation photos is to capture the action, excitement and emotions of that time together. Yes, your house will be the backdrop – but it won’t be the focus. You’ll see the moment first. And I’ve got plenty of tricks up my sleeve to ensure the backgrounds look as lovely as possible. 

Besides, your house is part of the story. And how lovely is it that these photos will bring back everyday memories as well as wedding day memories?

Not convinced? Here are some easy fixes (though maybe not ones you’d expect) to get your home photo-ready (minus the headache or more expense):

  1. Clean the windows

Natural light is the no.1 most important thing for great photos. So open up the blinds, clear any clutter from window sills, and let in as much light as possible.

  1. Keep the character, but lose the clutter

Remove the stack of newspapers you’ve been meaning to recycle. Put the clothes airer away. Designate a spot for serving food, away from where the action’s happening. 

But keep the fridge photos, the dog’s toys, and your grandchildren’s paintings – because they make your house a home, show relationships, and bring a nostalgic feeling to the photos. 

  1. Adjust the lighting

Before your wedding photographer arrives, turn the ceiling lights off and put all the lamps on. Spotlights can be unflattering, creating harsh shadows and bleached skin. Whilst lamps create that lovely soft glow.

Then relax. Embrace it all. And get ready to make some memories.

(And if all else fails, black and white photos are your friend!)

“You have obvious concerns about the preparations at home on the wedding day as you have just this one chance to get things right. Would the photographer get in the way or add to the general chaos of everyone getting ready at home … However, when Sarah and her team arrived at our home I found that they were very professional, polite and discrete. I felt that their presence was both reassuring and calming.” Alison Hart, Rebecca’s mum

7. Be part of the wedding day

Traditionally, mother figures stayed mostly in the background on wedding days. Thankfully, times are changing and mums can have an active role. And that all means there are no rules, so you get to do you.

Here are some lovely mum-centric ideas I’ve witnessed to get you started:

  • Make a speech 
  • Wear something from your own wedding day
  • Lend jewellery and help them put it on 
  • Walk down the aisle as a trio
  • Get a photo of you with your mum 
  • Plan a mother-daughter or mother-son dance after the couple’s first dance
  • Ask the DJ to play the song you had for your first dance, for a special dance with your partner

Now, some of these things are quite subtle, which means the photographer may miss the moment. So don’t be afraid to tell them about anything that’s particularly meaningful to you so they can capture it.

8. Keep this flattering pose up your sleeve

This pose is for you. It’s my go-to pose because is flattering for everyone …

  1. Turn your body so it’s at a 45° angle to the camera
  2. Put your weight on the leg furthest from the camera (this should naturally make the knee nearest the camera bend a little)
  3. Point the foot nearest the camera towards the photographer
  4. Pop your hand on your hip, place your hand on the person next to you, or hold your bag at waist height – like you’d hold a mug of tea. We’re aiming for a bent arm here, which is very flattering.

Are you a blinker in photos? Don’t worry! I’ll take plenty of duplicates to guarantee there’s one with your eyes open. 

And the most important thing? Relax. If you feel tense, move a little and take a moment to recompose yourself. There’s no rush. And you’ll be dancing barefoot before you know it!

9. Be yourself

This isn’t the time to try a new style, unless you’re 100% sure. The best thing you can do is be true to yourself. 

If you normally live in trousers, why not opt for a jumpsuit or trouser suit instead of a dress? If you’re not used to high heels, maybe choose wedges or a beautiful flat style. And if colour isn’t your thing, it’s okay to go neutral.

Be true to your unique style and you will look amazing – both in real life and in the wedding photos!

10. Make plenty of happy memories

Although the wedding photos will capture everything about the day itself, some of your biggest wedding memories won’t be in the photos. Like those that happen before the day.

Only you’ll remember how you discovered the ideal invitation, how you felt sitting in the pews for the rehearsal, the giggles you shared over lunch between supplier meetings about what a terrible teen they were …

Now, it might not all be as easy as you’d like. And you may not agree with every decision the couple makes. But if you argue or fall out, that’ll tarnish the experience for all of you. 

So try to be as compassionate as you can. That way, you’ll cherish the memories – and the photos. 

“The advice I would give is – leave them to it, give an opinion when asked, it is their wedding and they want their day with things that are important to them.” Sally Norris, Katie’s mum

And when your precious one makes big decisions and gives you instructions … pat yourself on the back. You’ve raised a competent, confident, clever person. Give yourself credit, they got it from somewhere!

And that’s it. All my best wedding photography advice for mums.

Which just leaves me to say: Enjoy your day – today and the wedding day!

And in honour of all the mums and mother figures, here are some of my favourite ‘mother moments’ I’ve had the privilege of photographing.

PS Don’t forget your waterproof mascara!