Hamilton Wedding Guide
You’re planning your Hamilton wedding, that’s awesome! This is my mega Hamilton Wedding Guide that I continually update as time goes on. After a decade documenting the best days of people marrying each other, I have a few tricks, tips, and best practices to make the day as easy and fun as possible for you.
Wedding Planning Planning Tips for your Hamilton wedding
A good plan can make your wedding day an absolute breeze. I think we can agree that your wedding day feeling like a celebration as opposed to a coordinated event will go a long way.
Sometimes your venue’s ceremony or reception may have a required start time, especially if you marry at a church or at a reception venue with multiple rooms. Work from those dedicated times first when you have to. However, if you are having a backyard wedding and can control the ceremony time, I highly encourage everyone to consider having the ceremony later in the day to accommodate a lower sun for better photographs, and the perfect segue into the best possible light for your family and personal portraits.
Possible Timeline Example (8 hours):
1pm – Start of Coverage
2:15pm – First Look / Portraits / Wedding Party
4:30pm – Ceremony
5pm – Cocktail Hour / Family Portraits
6pm – Reception/Dinner Start
7:30pm – Sunset Portraits
8:30pm – Dancing Starts
9pm – End of Coverage
Possible Timeline Example (10 hours):
12pm – Start of Coverage
1:30pm – First Look / Portraits / Wedding Party
3pm – Ceremony
5pm – Cocktail Hour / Family Portraits
6pm – Reception/Dinner Start
8:30pm – Sunset Portraits
9pm – Dancing Starts
10pm – End of Coverage
Getting ready on your wedding day
From there on out it is all about getting ready, and showing up the ceremony on time.
I prefer to start an hour before the first partner is getting ready so that I can be there for the tiny, personal moments with family and friends as you get dressed. I have 8, 10 and 12 hour packages that fit this part of your day perfectly.
After you both finish getting ready, some couples choose to have a first look, let’s walk and talk through that.
The first look on your wedding day
Couples may choose to have a first look before the ceremony on their wedding day. If you do, it helps to relieve schedule congestion. By seeing each other before the wedding, we can do some portraits and even some family photographs if you are open to seeing family before the ceremony. Alternatively we can always do your wedding party photographs at this time too.
Here’s a few tips for a first look:
- If you are both getting ready far away from each other, pick a first look location as close to the ceremony location as possible. If everything is on the same property, pick your favourite/prettiest place. Let me know if you want me to jump around the property beforehand to find my favourite spot. In all likelihood, I have already seen the best spots and can give you my recommendations.
- Only invite yourself. A first look is meant to be a private moment between you and your partner. I recommend this, but if you feel the moment will be even more special with close family and friends present, please let’s do so!
- This is a perfect time for a snack before the ceremony.
- Keep your wedding party on standby so we can roll into wedding party photographs.
The ceremony is the most important mini event of the day: this is where all the official exchanges happen.
If your wedding is all in one location, you will not need to worry about arriving early, however, if you are getting ready away from the venue, plean to be at the ceremony location 20-30 minutes beforehand for the first partners, and 10-15 minutes beforehand for the second partner. Not only does this give a nice cushion incase of traffic, but allows everyone to take a moment to settle into the ceremony.
If we did any of your family photographs before the ceremony, this would be a perfect time to finish the remainders up. If not, here’s a whole breakdown of making sure your family portraits sand your own are the best they possibly can be.
The best tips for your wedding ceremony:
- Ask your officiant to inform everyone to leave the cellphone in their pockets and let us do the photographic work.
- Anyone walking down the aisle is encouraged to take their time, except the kids. The kids will always run down the aisle 🙂
- When you begin the recessional, take your time here too, and even stop for a kiss halfway down the aisle and let me take a few photographs here. These are surprisingly lovely.
Family is one of the most important elements in my life, and hopefully yours too. I want your family photographs to live long in your family possession. With that said, if it is easier for your family to complete the portraits portion immediately after the ceremony at the ceremony location, like a church, we will plan a spot in the church or outside that is not distracting and is not difficult to walk on for anyone in heels or tall footwear.
If your ceremony and reception are separated by a drive, I recommend having everyone go directly to the reception and we utilize the best location there to complete your family portraits. Please let me know beforehand of any particular situations to be aware of or accessibility so that we can ensure every family member is included!
How to create a list of family photographs:
Please note that in 90% of the day I love to work freely and photograph as the day unfolds, but for family portraits I will need a list. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you with that:
- Write it all out on a word doc you can send me
- Start with your immediate family, and work outwards. I advise, usually for time sensitivity, to draw up a list of family you want a photograph with in your immediate family.
- Since most receptions have lots of time to socialize, we can plan to take photographs with them as the night progresses.
Example family list:
Mom + Dad + Bride & Groom
Mom + Dad + Siblings + Bride & Groom
Mom + Dad + Siblings + Bride & Groom
This is the most efficient and effective way to write out your family list so that we can ensure everyone is photographed. From here, your family can peel away to the reception and/or cocktail hour awaiting them.
Depending on how your wedding day’s schedule breaks down, and where you are getting married, I have a few different types of tips!
Wedding Portraits in Summer
In the summer, it is not only warm, but the sun is out for longer. In the event we are taking portraits between 11-5, I will always be looking to place you in gorgeous open shaded areas or dappled light. This not only keeps you cooler than being directly in the sun, but always looks the most beautiful.
Hamilton Portrait Locations
If we have time to jump to a location for portraits, I compiled a list of my favourites that always deliver lovely backdrops and unique photographs:
- Royal Botanical Gardens
- Cootes Paradise Sanctuary
- Bayfront Park
- Dundurn Castle
- Hamilton Beach
- Cotton Factory
- Downtown Hamilton
All of these locations look beautiful at, or close to sunset.
Bonus: These are all also a great place to bring your wedding party pre-ceremony for wedding party photographs.
Depending on where your reception is, you may have control over your lighting. If you do, that’s lovely and I have a few tips for you regarding lighting below. If you don’t, that is ok too. I can bring my own lighting to make sure we have enough light for photographs.
Tips for lighting your reception:
- Warm candles and/or lights that mimic the colour of candlelight are best. They’re warm and cozy and really give off an atmosphere that is great for a reception. With that said, if your vibe, theme, or location calls for something else, absolutely do that!
- Purple green, and blue are lovely colours, and may look lovely to the human eye, but it causes quite the problem for cameras when it hits skin. Look to avoid purple and blue uplighting near people, and keep it near backwalls that don’t splash onto guests.
My best tip for table layouts is this: Don’t place anything large directly in front, or anywhere in a 45-degree angle of you. Having a clear line of sight to your speech-giver and for myself and your videographer capture clear reactions of both of you is the best way to some of your favourite photographs. Consider smaller, or space out big table pieces.
Speech areas are often thrown in wherever without much thought. Over the years, it is clear to me the best speeches and the reactions come when the speech-giver doesn’t have to turn their body too much to present to you and the audience. The less looking around for them and the more likely they will be nailing that hilarious speech.
Sunset always approaches during reception, and a ten minute window to sneak you out is the best way to give you some breathing room, get some air, and also to take the last available sunset photographs of the evening before the party starts. If you’re wearing a tie, I recommend you don’t lose it before this point.
The first dance:
Here are my top tips for first dances:
- Please ask your DJ/lighting tech to have one consistently coloured light for at least the first minute and a half of your dance. In most cases this is white/daylist. Strobe and multi-coloured lights can leave polka dots all over someone’s face at the wrong moment.
- Please give me a heads up if you plan anything unique or special, so I can ensure I’m in the right place at the right time.
I love a good party and dancing too. I bring one camera onto the dancefloor to capture the best moves and organized dance sessions. The photographs that come out of dancing can be some of my favourite, especially if you have a talented dancer on the guest list.
These rockstars can handle anything, and then some. You will love them!
Hamilton Wedding Venues
The venues below are loved and famed across Hamilton and southern Ontario. For every season and every decor
Beamer Falls Manor
Hamilton Art Gallery
Royal Botanical Gardens
The Spice Factory
Knollwood Golf Club
The Hare Wine Co.
The Cotton Factory
Dyment’s Glen Drummond Farm
The Coach House at Dundurn
Do a trial run before your wedding to make sure you love your look!
Hair and makeup is personal, so here is a comprehensive list of artists and stylists we think are awesome.
Local Dress & Suits
Down-to-earth, creative, fun and most importantly, masters of their craft.
These DJs will keep your slow-dances slow, and your party electric. Spinning mixes of classics and modern tracks with just the right amount of class.
These foodies know how to excite your senses, and as a massive foodie, I can never recommend them more.
- Homewood Suites by Hilton Hamilton
- Four Points by Sheraton Hamilton
- Staybridge Suites Hamilton
- Many AirBnBs are also available
Things To Do in Hamilton
This city has so much to offer, and the surrounding region too. Here are a few places your friends and family from out of town can check out before or after your wedding.
- Dundurn Castle
- Hamilton Farmer’s Market
- Locke St., James St. North
- Over 50 waterfalls to explore
- Niagara Falls & Niagara-on-the-Lake aren’t too far away either!
What To Do When It Rains
One of the few things you cannot control on a wedding day is the weather. Coming in the form of rain and or snow, rain can add a unique element to your day if you prepare. I recommend grabbing J-hook umbrellas for your wedding party if the forecast calls for rain. With the right attitude and scouting ahead, we can take beautiful portraits of you in everything but an outright downpour.
In the event of downpours, I always plan for indoor spots to photograph without issue.
Hi. I’m Niv. I am a husband and father. Dreamer & artist.
A lover of photographs that capture you in a time and place with only the most important moments and reactions of your day. I cherish the family, the relationships and most importantly, the love that the two of you share in every image created. Every time I go out to shoot a wedding, I’m all in. Shooting a wedding for me is like permission to enter two families for one special day. Collecting memories for them to have and cherish in the years to come while they are becoming one family is my favourite part of this role I have as your wedding photographer.
I may be a local Hamilton Wedding Photographer, but I travel across southern Ontario and into the Niagara region for a truly great party.