I've always loved weddings. Some friends I know have been to under 5 weddings in their lives…and being a photographer, that is hardly my case! I’ve photographed at least 50 weddings, and have attended 20-30 more in the course of my 26 years. However, I've been in fewer bridal parties (maybe because I'm so often behind the lens!). So any chance I’m asked to stand up with a dear friend makes it that much more special!

Two years ago, on December 17, my best friend Erin married Jon on a snowy, blizzardy winter day in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She asked me to stand up with her—as a maid of honor! This was a first for me, and only my third time as a bridesmaid. Plus, the extremely talented Ana Leigh (now Ana Woods!) served as the photographer…leaving me free to enjoy the day and just be there for Erin. Although being involved in a wedding as the photographer is pretty comprehensive, it’s not the same as being a bridesmaid! Both roles are to serve the bride and encourage her throughout the day, but a bridesmaid or maid of honor is able to have a more intimate advantage as a friend. :) I thought I'd take a chance to write out some of my thoughts and experiences from the big day, on the other side of the lens, for all you out there who might be bridesmaids —or brides!— in the future! Here we go….!

1) Make a detail list beforehand! These should be things you'll want to check with the bride on morning of. Or, better, just have them to do yourself or with the other bridemaids! Erin and I completely forgot about a hanger for the dress shot. Not a major detail, but I have a few specialty-made hangers I use with my clients and could have grabbed one. Oops!

2) Take the little moments to get that "quality time" in! Most wedding days are busy and packed with hair, makeup, photos, and celebrating! Erin’s day was especialy busy, as they had an early wedding with a dessert bar instead of a dinner. That meant we were up early to meet at a salon in Cedar Falls (Voya the salon) for hair, makeup, and breakfast. I suggest that you chat with her while she is getting her hair done, because she can’t be doing anything else! At the minimum, give her a hug and remind her she's gorgeous before she heads to her first look with her almost husband.

bride and bridesmaids getting ready in her home in cedar falls iowa during a winter wedding
des moines wedding photographers

3) Pay attention to what you know she needs, and make sure she has the space for it! Things were a solid 40 minutes behind most of the day. After family photos, Erin needed a bite to eat so I grabbed her a sandwich from the kitchen and left her to eat and read her Bible by herself (something we knew she needed…it got a little crazy right before the ceremony!). Pay attention to what your friend says (or doesn’t say) and fight for her to have that! And then…after everything is done, get on that dance floor with your bestie!!!

cedar falls wedding venues rotary reserve iowa

4) Insist on a photo with her on your phone (if you want one) early in the day. Otherwise, it might not happen! (And maybe snag another one with your co-maid of honor//new bestie Haley) I wish that I’d asked for more earlier in the day, instead of just at the reception, and I also wish I’d had the photographer take a few more of us. However, some day are crazy and you just have to be thankful for what you get and the memories that you’ll have, regardless of the photos on your iPhone!


5) Don't forget the tissues! I walked down the aisle tissue-less and might have been crying through my nose (you know, so that makeup doesn't run!) during most of the ceremony. Gross hahaha. Wrap a few around your bouquet base, for you— or for the bride. Also, feel out the bouquets ahead of time. If her flowers are heavy (Erin’s were!), pass off your bouquet (it’ll be smaller and lighter) to the next bridesmaid and then your arms won’t be so tired at the end.

6) Bring your phone (so you can get a few photos) but then set it down, and let the photographer do their job! The professional photos are by far going to be more beautiful than any cell phone pictures. Your friend has trusted a professional to do their job—your job is to enjoy the day and take mental snaps, and grace your friend by being present with them :)

winter wedding in Cedar Falls Iowa
being a maid of honor

all professional photos by Ana Leigh Photography, iPhone photos all mine ;)