A wedding checklist can be long and overwhelming, with some items feeling more rushed or important than the next. It’s a day you’ve thought about for years, envisioning the dress, the spouse, the venue, the portraits and everything in between, but you can’t . One item I wish to remind you of today, is another location you spend a good part of your time… The prep location!
For many of us, we aren’t born and raised in downtown Chicago. The city is full of transplants and professionals from the surrounding suburbs. You may also have out of town guests, and there is no way a bride & groom should be spending your wedding night in your own bed. The hotel you choose to call “home” for your wedding weekend has a few important factors, which I wanted to provide some insight on from the experience of a professional photographer. I hope this can serve you as some help!
It’s possible you are having your ceremony and/or reception at the hotel you do your prep at. This is very convenient option for the day, and the hotel staff is there for you all weekend long. Whatever you need (within reason), they understand you are bringing in a lot of business, and should be providing flexible assistance to you and your guests during your stay. This makes the rehearsal process easier, and it’s a one stop shop for your wedding experience. Luxury hotels are not only immaculate, but they excel at high quality service, and that cannot be overlooked.
There are of course downsides to the all in one approach. Most obvious, being you miss out on some of the great venue spaces that are in Chicago. It’s a matter of taste, but there is no shortage of venue options. So due your research, and if you have a planner like LK Events, they know venues and staff inside and out. This is why you brought them in.
As a photographer, this section will carry the most weight for me. Photographically, the room you decide to dress in, is a big part of your wedding day story. First and foremost, it should fit your style. If you are into modern furniture and sleek lines, that’s the hotel you should be looking for. If you are into classic Chicago architecture and motifs, you should be looking in that direction. Whatever it is, here is what is important to make those images really shine.
Where ever you end up, ask for the room with the best light. In Chicago, that generally means south facing, and a high floor. That may not be the case for every hotel, so ask the hotel coordinator as you book your suite. Floor to ceiling windows are fantastic, and allow the photographer the most flexibility to control the room.
(Left: Double Tree, St. Paul / Right: Sofitel Chicago Water Tower)
You will have anywhere from 5 to 20 people in that room, depending on your bridal party and family size. That’s a crowd, and has the potential to overwhelm both you and the space. Having a large open suite with a living room set up is great, and multiple rooms are also a plus. I prefer to clear out a room of excess luggage and food/bottles before we starting photographing you putting on your dress. This also allows more flexibility for the photographer to shoot the dress, shoes, accessories without being in the way, or your bridesmaids can dress in the other rooms if need be.
Once that dress is on, you need to see yourself from head to toe. After all the work you’ve put in, you deserve at least that much! If the room doesn’t have a full length mirror, ask the hotel what they have on hand.
4. Bridal Party:
I stress this with every couple I meet, and I will do so again here. Please consider having your bridal party dressed if they are done with hair & make up. At the very least, by the time you are putting on your dress. When you flip through your wedding album years down the road, you will appreciate the difference between your friends in their dress versus pajamas. This is so often overlooked, but it does change the tone, and adds that extra touch of class to the room. Now, I am all for getting your girls something personal and that matches to wear all morning long. I think this is great, and is really the best alternative. Whether it’s a robe, monogramed shirt or anything in-between, I love it. It’s a great idea, and is a wonderful favor.
5. The Gents:
Everything I said above stands here too, with just a little less stress on the suite and mirrors part. The biggest thing, is having the guys get ready in the same building as the girls. You ensure nobody forgets something, the planner/photographer can balance the schedule better, and if you wish to do a first look, it’s very complimentary to first looks. If you have the whole bridal party, parents and more at the same location, no one should be left behind, and everyone has someones cellphone number.
What else does the hotel have to offer you? What is the aesthetic and environment of the space? Keep in mind, that many hotels have luxurious bars, lounge spaces, or even rooftops and terraces for you to access. These are priceless perks on your wedding day, so don’t forget to look beyond the suite itself!
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Let’s just say for a second you have no desire to use a hotel for yourself at all. I’ve photographed in many different prep locations, and it’s not the end of the world. If you have a space in the city that can hold your bridal party, is open and clean, I see no reason to dissuade you. I’ve been in friends homes, and also in more intimate settings with only immediate family present. I honestly loved that too. It was classy and personal, and that fit the bride.
Everything I’ve shared is about finding what suits your tastes the best, and promoting a relaxing wedding environment. I hope that this was able to provide some insight and help to you in your planning process. Remember to seek advice from other professionals around you, our insight comes from nothing more than experience!