How to Plan a Wedding Inspiration Shoot

With the wedding industry being the giant that it is, every bride, groom and imposing mother are constantly looking for the next big trend. No one wants to have the same kind of wedding as their friend, cousin, sister, or that casual acquaintance on Instagram – they want something unique and as original as they are.

The problem is that the longer this goes on, the less inspirational ideas are around that are fresh and new. That’s why new brides and bridal parties look to the inspirational shoots on wedding blogs, in magazines and more to help guide them towards the next big trend or ease them towards something more traditional and classic.

Although these wedding inspiration shoots look fun and effortless, there are a lot of factors at play so they can be pretty tricky to pull off successfully. Luckily, you came to the right place! Here are our best tips for planning a great wedding inspiration shoot!


As with any kind of photo shoot, lighting is absolutely crucial; however, inspiration shoots often have a lot of different lighting elements and pieces of decor to highlight, which can prove difficult. Add into this the fact that many wedding inspiration shoots have sections that are shot outside, then it can be a logistical lighting nightmare for your photographer.

Make sure that you can walk your photographer through the space ahead of time so that they can properly assess what kind of kit they’re going to need and what the shot order is going to have to be. After all, shoots are often shot out of order to best make use of the light on the day.

Time of day

This brings us nicely to the time of day that you’re looking to shoot. Your photographer will likely have a list of shots that they want to complete, but you’re going to have to decide if you want a chronological story where the ceremony is in the daylight and the reception slowly sinks into the evening, or if you want to try and shoot everything so it looks like it’s the same time of day.

Think about the kind of vibe that you’re wanting to create with this shoot and choose the best time of the day for you. This might mean a really early start to make the most of the light, or an entire night shoot for a glitzy reception vibe, or anything in between. All this pre-planning is really going to pay off on the day, we promise you!

Get your vendors lined up

Speaking of pre-planning, make sure that you have all your wedding vendors lined up ahead of time with delivery a couple of days before the shoot if possible. A huge part of creating a beautiful wedding inspiration shoot is getting a whole host of vendors who can work well together. It has to feel like a real wedding so you’ll be dealing with dresses, accessories, suits, tableware, rings, florists, decor, venues and more. If you let them all deliver on the day of the shoot, it’s going to be carnage.

There are some vendors who will have to deliver the day of the shoot, like cakes, flowers and the hair and makeup artists, but whatever you can get ahead of time, definitely make sure that you do it. You’ll have limited daylight, limited time with your models, and a photographer who is on an hourly or daily rate so you really don’t want to be wasting time setting things up and wrangling your vendors. Shoots are stressful enough without dealing with multiple deliveries as well!

Add plenty of contingency time

This leads into your scheduling for the wedding inspiration shoot. It might seem like there are a hundred and one shots to get, transitions to make and things to set up, but it’s up to you to cut through the noise and really get to the parts of the shoot that are going to make the most impact for your piece. Spending an hour on a close up of hands might be a nice, artsy shot, but is it worth all that time and energy? Maybe not – that’s up to you and your vision.

Whatever your shooting schedule looks like, make sure to add another 10% of time to each section. Even the most professional shoots run over and you want to allow enough contingency time to get what you need. Account for things like makeup touch ups, lunch breaks, setting up the lights and cameras for the next set of shots. All of these things take time and you need to consider them all so you’re not disappointed with the end result.

Don’t forget to add a call time to your shooting schedule. You’re probably going to have a hefty amount of set up to do and although wedding hair and makeup can take a while, it’s probably less time than dressing the entire set and sorting out the photographer. You don’t want your models sitting around for ages while you’re getting yourself organised. If nothing else, it’s more likely that they’ll need their hair and makeup redone before you shoot, wasting everyone’s time.

Use your references

As with any kind of photo shoot, references are key. If you have a brief from a client or editor make sure you sit down with them and get as much information, images and reference points as you can. Print them off, bring them to set and remember to send test images back to your client on the day of the shoot if they can’t be on set. After all, you don’t want to spend an entire day shooting something that isn’t right.

If your brief isn’t super comprehensive then come prepared with some ideas of your own to throw into the mix. Your client will be pleased with your organisation and enthusiasm for the job and it might even spark some new ideas and directions that you can go down with your wedding inspiration shoot.

How to Plan an Inspiration Shoot

Just in time and right on the heels of last week’s styled shoot contest announcement, Chelsea LaVere is here to explain exactly how to put together an inspiration shoot. She wears many hats as a photographer (Bit of Ivory Photography), blogger (Tidewater and Tulle), and styled shoot coordinator (Orchestrated Stylized Shoots) so I can’t think of a better person to lay it all out!

Tidewater and Tulle launch shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |

From Chelsea – As a wedding photographer who has been orchestrating stylized shoots since 2010, I thrive in this creative realm. When else can you execute a completely “you” vision and communicate an artistic message (or even that quirky wedding obsession you might have) or throw out some trendsetting ideas?

In June 2012, the wheels were put into motion to add a new title to my cap: local wedding blog editor. Taking from my experience and presence in the local wedding community, I knew I could better convey my long-term vision for Tidewater and Tulle through a stylized shoot: branding, image calibre, and community.

It was actually a strange role to play because I wasn’t shooting or setting up like what I normally do with Orchestrated or for personal projects. I was strictly the Creative Director. I’ll have to admit– I loved it. A lot. Sure, I helped out on the day of with setup, but I could step back and really enjoy seeing the pros at work and direct as needed.

Powder blue and white bridal bouquet | Jen + Ashley Photography |
powder blue bridesmaid dress | Jen + Ashley Photography |
powder blue and white boutonniere | Jen + Ashley Photography |
leafy chair garland | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Tidewater and Tulle launch shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |


As bloggers, stylized shoots give a visual voice to what you want to communicate. Whether it’s a branding shoot or an inspirational shoot, you have ultimate control on what your message will say. 2014 wedding trends, the new popular colours, a Renaissance of stories. The sky is the limit!

But beyond the message, we all want to feel like we are a part of something big. We crave community, we are not islands. The value of networking and community through a stylized shoot is invaluable. As a regional blog editor, it’s the very foundation of my message. A positive community is vital for creating a genuine and long-withstanding resource for your audience.


If you’ve never done a stylized shoot before, get prepared for a lot of work, long hours, and the sweet, sweet reward of creating inspiration for others and for yourself. It’s so worth it!

Before even planning, look at the calendar. A solid wedding stylized shoot takes at least 3-4 months to plan (there are some that have taken me about 9 months to plan because of venue challenges!). Give yourself plenty of time to make it perfect to your standards because ultimately, you are investing your time, money, and energy into this vision.

1. Know your message and develop the theme.

Know what your colour scheme is first, and then create a Pinterest board of your ideas. Before contacting any vendors, you need a visual so they can create from it. Especially with vendors you’ve never worked with before, you want to invoke confidence and thoughtful planning.

2. Select a venue or location and date.

Before moving to vendors, you need to secure a location where things are happening to let your vendors know. Which venue best communicates your creative vision? Is it rustic, modern, nautical, or urban? Finding the perfect one is key to the entire process.

Will you shoot on a weekday will always garner a better response just due to the nature of real weddings. You will also want to ask the venue if they have a “getting ready” room for wardrobe changes and hair and makeup.

Venues will likely be your biggest challenge. Some venues also require a Certificate of Insurance/Liability (up to $1 million). As most bloggers likely don’t have this, check with your photographer. If he/she is an established wedding photographer, he/she should have it as some venues won’t allow them to shoot there without it. If you’re looking at a historical site, government-run location, or museum, this is almost always required.

Soup in a bread bowl | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Cloth wedding invitations | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Groom in a grey suit | Jen + Ashley Photography |
outdoor reception | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Bridal bouquet | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Soup station | Jen + Ashley Photography |
crab reception | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Wedding garland for a dog | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Wedding oyster bar | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Stylish outdoor reception | Jen + Ashley Photography |

3. Consider connecting with a wedding planner/coordinator.

Going to the pros defaults to “win” every time. A planner can be your link to vendors, organizational ease, and everything in between. Even though I am crazy organized and have done this dozens of times, even I knew I needed a professional wedding planner for Tidewater and Tulle’s shoot. Not just for community, but because she does event coordination for a living and made the process much more seamless.

4. Secure your photographer.

As a blogger, you have the unique advantage of seeing bunches of different photography styles. So you probably already had an idea with whom you’d like to work. It’s really just a matter of contacting them and making it happen!

With photographers, be upfront with your expectations and let them know if you prefer exclusivity for the feature. It tends to be a given when working with a blog editor on a stylized shoot, but some photographers might be new to the publishing world.

Also, be sure to ask if participating vendors will be receiving high-resolution images to use for their own marketing. As a blogger, you don’t have the rights to distribute the photos, so you will need to send any inquiring vendors over to the photographer.

(As a side note, since I have the unique advantage of being a photographer as my day job, it’s always an honour when a blogger asks me to shoot for them! Forward-thinking photos will totally “get” the concept of stylized shoots for publication and be happy to participate and share. If they’re already submitting to your publication, they already know the immense value in what you do. Being respectful in your request and communicative in what you are looking for is like honey for us lil worker bees!)

5. Plan out your vendor choices.

I use Trello in project planning, so I start a list of ideal vendors who match the theme’s style and then I start contacting them with a link to the Pinterest board, intention for the shoot, what the benefits are for those involved, and finite dates and locations. Leave no grey area when it comes to early logistics.

Rejection is also part of the process. Some vendors might be too busy, so depending on relationship, see if they can recommend a similar styled vendor. This is where the coordinator comes in handy!

Leafy garland for a dog at your wedding | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Tidewater and Tulle shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Naked cake | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Naked cake | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Kraft paper signs | Jen + Ashley Photography |
White wedding cake | Jen + Ashley Photography |
Tidewater and tulle inspiration shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |

6. Find your models.

There will be different trains of thought for this, but for me, I only work with real couples (aka everyday people), so I contact vendors’ friends or family. For me, professionally, it’s more authentic and relatable to everyday engaged couples, and on a personal level, past models have said repeatedly that the experience of being pampered, donning a wedding gown, and having a professional shoot with their significant other has meant the world to them particularly if they didn’t have quality wedding photos. And personally, that makes it all even more worth it.

If you are more of the fashion-slanted persuasion, casting calls on social media or modelling agencies will also be beneficial.

Before you shoot, you will also need to send out a Model Release Form to each of your models so they are aware that their likenesses will be on an online publication. Even if they are everyday people, one bad egg can ruin your entire shoot and make it unpublishable if they say “no” after the shoot. Typically, a professional photographer also already has this, so touch base with them to get one.

7. Delegate and excite.

If not already established, be sure to delegate the To Do list and know who’s doing what on the actual shoot day. Communicate with venue, vendors, and your social media audiences. Get everyone excited about what’s happening because really, it is an exciting thing to get pros together to do what they do best!

This is also a good time to make sure you gather all social media links from everyone involved so you can prep your blog feature and schedule out social media shoutouts.

8. Create a day-of schedule.

Particularly when working with a good number of vendors, you want to email the logistics (setup time, breakdown time, et cetera) one week before the shoot. Give your cell phone number or day-of contact information so they know who to contact in case of emergency.

9. And lastly, enjoy the day and wait patiently for the photos to create your feature!

It’s been a ton of work, but the results will be amazing! Inspiration is a domino effect– just watch to see what unfolds next… or what inspires you next time!

Tidewater and Tulle launch shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |

Be sure to check out more images and the video from this stylish shoot over on Tidewater and Tulle!

Credits: Photography: Jen + Ashley // Concept & Styling: Chelsea LaVere of Tidewater and Tulle // Venue: Hermitage Museum and Gardens // Event Coordination & Custom Linens: Antonia Christianson Events // Hair: Behind the Veil // Cake Backdrop: Bluebird’s Garage Vintage Rentals // Cakes: Cake Delights // Catering: Chef by Design // Chairs: Distinctive Event Rentals // Videography: Jeremy Mitchell Cinema // Makeup: Makeup by Kim Porter // Stationary: PaperDolls Design // Gowns: Pure English Couture Bridal // Wooden Tables: River Design Vintage Furniture Rentals // Floral Design: Roost Flowers.