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Couples first kiss at Sonoma wedding ceremony.

Santa Rosa Wedding Photographer Documents Beautiful Backyard Ceremony

Looking back on all the weddings I’ve had the pleasure of documenting, the ones that are always the most memorable in my mind are the small ceremonies. There’s something warmly cozy about a guest list that is culled down to include only immediate family and the closest of friends. Today’s post showcases an intimate backyard wedding I got to capture for my cousin Abbey and her husband Rob in Santa Rosa.

Now I know every wedding blog you’ve ever read goes on about how they loved capturing Tarzan and Jane’s wedding and how it was the most magical jungle ceremony they ever witnessed blah blah blah. That said, my cousin’s wedding was EXCEPTIONALLY beautiful. Both of them looked great and very much in love. The ceremony location under the oak tree at her mom’s house was the ideal backdrop for a country wedding.

Abbey and Rob are both truly wonderful people I genuinely love being around. I very much wanted to create the best wedding album I could for them partly because I like them so much and partly because I knew that I would be looking back on this wedding for the rest of my life. This is simply the nature of capturing any major event in one’s family and I love how enthusiastic both of them were in helping me make that happen for them.

To properly capture any wedding, I think it’s important to include a healthy mix of posed formal portraits and candid photo journalism. Too much candid photography tends to make the formal portraits look unpolished and not show off my subjects in the most flattering way. Not enough photo journalism can stifle the authentic personality and emotion of the couple.

Regardless of which approach I’m taking, It’s very important to me that each shot should look authentic and work in harmony to tell the story of the wedding in the final album. The following is my best attempt to create a wedding album using this method that Rob and Abbey will love forever.

Bride and Groom Wedding Portraits

Wedding Formals / Getting Ready Photos

I always like to capture formal wedding portraits of the bride and groom when they are getting ready. This allows me to efficiently capture the getting ready shots and the formal portraits all at the same time.

These formal portraits also include photos with the bridesmaids, groomsmen and each persons family. By getting all of these formal portraits captured before the ceremony I find that I can minimize my impact on the bride and grooms time with their guests later in the day.

Bridal portraits with two young kids all wearing white dresses.
Individual portraits of all of the groommen of the wedding party

Back Yard Wedding Ceremony Santa Rosa

For obvious reasons, the wedding ceremony is one of the main portions of the day where I take on a strictly photo journalistic approach. This doesn’t mean however that great ceremony photos are left completely to chance.

About a month before their wedding, I met with Rob and Abbey at the ceremony location to look at the situation and offer some insight from a photo perspective. They had great instincts and were mostly dialed in without my help. That said I always offer to do this to help put couples minds at ease so they feel more confident about how to set things up.

In the case of Abbey and Rob’s wedding I knew the timing and orientation of the ceremony would be fairly important. I advised them to orient their arbor and seating where it was with the intention of backlighting them with the sun for their kiss shot.

By having the ceremony at 5PM (sunset was at 7PM) we maximized the chance to catch some beautiful back lighting, while still saving the lowest angle of the sun for their formal couple portraits. The way they oriented their arbor, sod aisle and guest chairs allowed the main feature of the oak tree to frame them for arguably my favorite kiss shot to date.

All of the orientation and timing planning aside, the real cherry on top for this ceremony was all about the details Rob and Abbey added themselves. The arbor with the white sheet, The sod aisle, the flowers and fabric that framed the sod in, the rose pedals that Rob’s daughter spread on the aisle right before Abbey met Rob at the arbor; These little details are what gave their ceremony that polished look and are largely responsible for what made their kiss shot so epic.

Family Formal Photos

By capturing all of the formal photos earlier in the day the only thing I had to capture after the ceremony that required me to impose on the guests was the formal group photos of the entire wedding party. I find it best to do these photos right after the ceremony before people start drinking. Once people start drinking, getting them back for family photos becomes a herculean effort akin to herding cats in my experience.

Group photos of bridal party at wedding

Bride and Groom Formal Wedding Photos

In the case of this wedding, they both wanted the first time Rob saw Abbey to be when she walked down the aisle. In this situation the best time to get formal couples portraits, is immediately following the group photos and timed to coincide with golden hour.

For those that don’t know, golden hour is the hour before sunset when the sun is lowest on the horizon. The angle of the sun combined with the warmer color temperature makes for the most flattering lighting conditions of the day.

The entire timeline for this wedding was planned around golden hour. The ceremony time was set intentionally at 5pm to utilize the best lighting of the day for the wedding, formal group portraits and couples portraits.

Sonoma wedding photographer

Santa Rosa Wedding Photographer

I hope you enjoyed viewing this album as much as I did creating it! If you loved the way Abbey and Rob’s album turned out and you’re looking for a wedding photographer in Santa Rosa area, please feel free to get in touch with me here or leave a comment below. I’d be more than happy to talk with both of you about your upcoming wedding or answer any questions you might have.

Abbey’s makeup by: Ducky Suboreau

Jason Guy

I am a portrait photographer based out of Sonoma, California. I create portraits for people of all ages with the goal of making images that are timeless. Portraits you will look back on decades from now, and still love them just as much then as you do today. While flattering lighting and pose are important, capturing how others see you is what I ultimately strive for.

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