FAQ: What to Wear to Shoot a Wedding / Behind the Scenes at CTP ~ Chicago Wedding Photographer

We get asked pretty often about advice for what to wear when you’re going to shoot a wedding. Over the years we have changed what we wear a bit… to say the least! The first few weddings I shot I wore black dress pants, black flats, & a black shirt… and I figured out pretty quickly that I hated it (for various reasons… #1 being that it didn’t feel like “me” or represent my brand well).

In 2011 I switched to wearing dresses for weddings. My goal when I first switched to dresses was to look like a guest, but to also make sure the dress was comfortable enough to shoot in all day and appropriate for work. Looking back on dresses I wore in 2011 I occasionally ask myself “What were you thinking?!” … but I suppose you live and you learn, right?! (For the curious – a couple of the dresses I wore last year were strapless. Although they fit me well, covered me up top, and stayed up all day without tugging/adjusting – in retrospect I realized they just didn’t look super professional. I looked a little TOO MUCH like a guest.)

Anyway – that brings us to THIS YEAR where I went out of my way to find and buy dresses specifically for shooting weddings (which I had never done before). I realized I wanted to look more professional, but still stylish and comfortable. My main goals now when I buy dresses for work are the following:

1. It must have straps and coverage up top.

2. It must be structured enough so that it doesn’t blow up with a gust of wind, and long enough that I can easily squat without worrying about flashing anybody. I probably look crazy in dressing rooms in all the positions I put myself in to make sure the dress will work! haha.

3. Pockets are a bonus, but I don’t require them… and come to think of it – I don’t really use them because I squat so much I’m afraid whatever I have in there will fall out!

4. I try to go for solid colors or toned down patterns (if I must).

5. I like to accessorize with cute earrings and/or a statement necklace.

6. Shoes: During the summer I wear sandals because I seriously have the WORLD’S WORST FEET (thanks to dancing ballet on pointe). I tried wearing flats for a while but I haven’t been able to find any yet that stay on my feet AND fit me comfortably enough so that I don’t want to cut my feet off 1-hour into the day. In colder weather I wear flat black boots with traction on the bottom! (For one fall wedding this year I wore wedges instead – which were fine until about 6 hours in! haha)

7. For fall and winter weddings I wear tights with my dresses, and throw a cardigan over my dress if it doesn’t have long sleeves. (In case I get hot I can take it off indoors, because I tend to get warm when shooting – so this helps!)

8. I usually wear my hair half-up so it is out of my face but still professional (ish) looking… (but often end up with it in a pony tail or bun at hot summer weddings). I plan to have Debbie teach me some new ways to do my hair for the 2013 season & blog it – so stay tuned for that this off season!

9. I wear sunblock always on my face & body. We’re outside a lot for weddings – take care of your skin people!

10. I wear minimal makeup… enough that I look put together, but not like a dripping hot mess at the end of the day. (Although sometimes it is inevitable! Hello 100 degree days this summer!) What I wear for every wedding: concealer around my eyes, a light white/pink eyeshadow, waterproof mascara, and blush. I used to wear eyeliner but found that I just end up looking like a hot mess by the end of the day because I’m squinting behind the camera/sweating/crying (happy tears) – so I stopped wearing it. haha.


And of course we can’t forget about James!! That handsome husband/business partner of mine wears the standard guy’s guest outfit for a wedding… dress pants, dress shoes, a button down shirt, and a tie. He does have a suit with a coat to wear if we need it for a black tie wedding, but we haven’t needed it yet. Plus, poor guy would be ROASTING in a jacket during summer weddings!


Anyway – enough chatter – here is a glimpse behind the scenes of us in action & our different outfits for 2012 (which you’ll realize for me is basically a variation of 3 different dresses, and James in various outfits pretending to cut cake/letting me test light on him/making crazy faces… haha)!


Dress #1: This dress I wore occasionally this summer, but tried to not wear it on days I knew I’d be sitting in a (possibly) steaming hot limo with a bridal party – because sweat shows up quickly & easily through this fabric! So I opted to wear it at weddings where we were in the same place all day, or in the fall winter with tights/boots/cardigan. (The dress is from Banana Republic, super breathable, lightweight, and comfy! They don’t carry this exact dress anymore – but I’m loving this double-V Sheath they have now!)

(I look miserable every time I realize J is taking a photo of me, like on the left, haha… yikes! There’s a reason I’m behind the camera people! ;)) **Edited to add – my gray trench coat is by Kenneth Cole, and I got it for a steal at Nordstrom Rack!

The picture on the left cracks me up! Ashley and I are all.. “this is so fun!” and Kurt is like, “IT IS SO HOT. Are we done yet?!” On the right is the only pic I have of the boots I was talking about (from Steve Madden).


Dress #2 (also from Banana Republic): I bought this last winter when I realized I would soon freeze my butt off if I didn’t get a cold weather appropriate dress. I LOVE shooting in this dress. It is stretchy and long enough and oh so comfy, and can be jazzed up a bit with a fun necklace. It is my go-to winter/fall dress. (They don’t carry this anymore – but I love this new option that has similar sleeves and fit!)


Let’s break it up with some photos of my handsome husband… shall we?! Most of his ties are DKNY, or Banana Republic (I believe). Pants all Banana Republic, shirts a variation of brands – but mostly Banana Republic I believe. We recently discovered their slim fit men’s dress shirts and they are PERFECT. Not too slim, but just slim enough! (Although I don’t believe any of those slim fits are pictured here… sorry!)

James likes to make crazy faces when I’m testing light on him… haha


Dress #3: I actually only wore this dress to this one wedding. It felt a bit casual to me, but was perfect for this backyard lake wedding on a HOT August day in Wisconsin! (Dress from J.Crew)


Dress #4: My most worn dress of the summer months… also from J.Crew. Structured and not going to blow around… great coverage, pockets, and sweat didn’t show through it! Perfection!

Well… that is until you show up and realize you look like a bridesmaid. haha! From that wedding on I made to sure to ask what the bridesmaids were wearing!

For anyone curious – the necklace you constantly see me wearing is from Francesca’s.


Outfit #5: We shot a Muslim wedding this summer that required I have my legs and arms fully covered so I wore this pants/shirt/cardigan outfit. (Shirt from Banana Republic, Cardigan from J.Crew, pants from Banana Republic, flats from Steve Madden.) To the right is James looking dapper in his winter coat from… you guessed it… Banana Republic.

And now more random/goofy pics of James! 🙂 Because I like him. 🙂 James working it at Mallory & Pat’s wedding! haha

Testing light again! So serious.

This little girl was obsessed with J! It was the cutest thing ever. Also, can you tell a pattern started to develop with the faces he would make while testing dance floor lighting?! haha

Thankfully this guy decided to take James out of his misery and surprised him by joining him for a photo! haha! Love this!

Annnnnnd fun props… why not?! 🙂


I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal – but the way you represent yourself and your brand while shooting will make a WORLD of difference. Almost 50% of our weddings for 2013 are referrals from past clients (many of whom we shot this year), and 4 of our 2013 couples saw us in action at their friends’ weddings and later decided to book us for their own. When I met up with one of these couples for drinks to chat about possibly shooting their wedding the bride actually mentioned in the meeting that she saw me shooting her friend’s wedding, loved my dress, and checked out my website when she got home! I know it seems like no big deal – but dressing professionally and appropriately for your brand is just another way to make sure you have a cohesive and professional presence across the board – Facebook, Twitter, blog, website, print materials, and in person!

(I’m sure I forgot something – so let me know if you have any questions about anything!!!)


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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!