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Do Weddings Smarter — Families in the Bridal Party

What you are about to read is a complex merge of our personal experiences and professional experiences as a photographer. All situations appearing in this blog post are purely fictional.  Any resemblance to any real bridal party, now or in the past, is completely coincidental.:)

Let’s get straight to it! In Do Weddings Smarter, we are urging you to seriously and thoughtfully consider what your goals are for your wedding day, and maybe shedding a little light on how to reach those goals from our experiences as seasoned wedding photographers!

GOAL: When choosing whom you will include in your bridal party, most brides and grooms want to give a position of honor to those who hold a very special place in our lives and hearts! You want them to be able to stand with you, to enjoy the day with you and to know that you treasure them beyond just a “normal” relationship.

Many times, it’s a brother or sister that holds this special place in our lives, so it’s an obvious choice to include them.  Then, of course the brother or sister-in-law is special to us to and so we want to include them, so they become part of the bridal party as well.  Then, there’s the darling nieces and nephews (children of said sister maid of honor and brother-in-law groomsmen) that you’ve always dreamed would be a part of your day, so they get the honored position of being ring bearer or flowergirl!

REALITY: While in theory, this sounds great because everyone is included, can I share with you what I see over and over again from a wedding photographer’s perspective?  The first thing you have to know from a photographic perspective is that the youngest person in the group (ring bearers and flowergirls) have the POWER!  They are in charge!  So, what happens is that the children who have had unusually late nights at rehearsal dinners and celebrations and such, get woken up early so that they can be with everyone else while they are dressing, get put into clothing that they are not typically used to and may not be the most comfortable, skip their naps because of the events of the day and THEN we begin taking pictures.  These little nieces and nephews who are normally little well-behaved angels, are now the ones who won’t come out from under the bride’s dress for pictures, are crying, etc.  Though not the case for every child, this is especially true with the little ones ( 4 years and under).  Let’s talk about the parents.  By then, the parents haven’t had the chance of kicking back and relaxing while getting ready like the other members of the bridal party have.  See, they’ve been trying to keep track of all of Johnny’s parts to his suit, making sure beautiful niece doesn’t ruin her cute little curls, trying to keep precious nephew from rolling in the dirt, etc.  Then, we expect them all to stand still and smile for the pictures! When the children don’t cooperate, it also adds stress to the parents, who desperately want their kids to be cooperative and the pictures to turn out well. When the children have reached the end of their cooperation, who is the next person who usually steps in to take care of them? Their grandma or grandpa who is at the wedding, otherwise known as mother or father of the bride (or groom).  Even though I am so sure that grandparents don’t mind a bit, can I tell you how many times I’ve seen the father of the bride outside entertaining/watching the children run around during the reception?  I’m sure that he loves to do that, but in my opinion, as a parent of the bride or groom, I think that I would love the chance to visit with family and friends that I may have not seen for some length of time. Overall, you can see how having an entire family in bridal party may make for a challenging day for all and what started out as a great intention, sometimes has consequences that are unseen.

With that said, here are some thoughts and ideas about how to honor the people in your life that you love most in a way that will make the day ultimately enjoyable for them as well!

-Choose whomever in the family unit is most important to you and be sure to include them in the bridal party! If you want both the children and your sister, for example, let the brother-in-law be an important of your day but not in the bridal party.  Having someone NOT in the wedding party may bring a little relief to everyone’s day.  For example, he may be able to bring the kids at a later time when they’re actually needed, he can be nearby during pictures to comfort and entertain the little ones while they’re not needed for the pics, and if they are tired (or bored) during the ceremony or reception, they can sit down with him (instead of hanging on mom’s skirt while she’s giving a speech or being disruptive during the ceremony).

-Honor that special person who may not be in your bridal party by creating a part of your day just for them.  Perhaps they could give a toast, do a scripture reading, or welcome everyone to the reception.  Be sure to include them if they are special to you, even if they’re not in the bridal party!

-If small children are present at the wedding you might want to consider contacting a nanny agency or babysitter to take the little ones somewhere and entertain them as the night gets long and the kiddos get tired, so that mom & dad can still have a great time!  If you are having a destination wedding, be sure to talk with your event coordinator about this service, they may have some great recommendations.  I have also seen guests bring their au pair’s with them to destination events, so that they can enjoy the entire event on their own.

I hope this has given you some things to think about and I would love to hear how you are dealing with the tough decisions in putting together your bridal party.  What factors have gone into the decisions you are making?

Keep thinking,


Here’s one of my favorite flowergirl images ever!  I love this image not only because it’s beautiful, but because it’s my daughter and her two little friends when they were at such a sweet age.



Nina & Jimmy’s Wedding at the San Francisco W | Damion Hamilton | San Francisco Wedding Photographer

Holy guacamole.  That’s all I can say about this gorgeous and fun day celebrating with Nina & Jimmy at the W Hotel in San Francisco.  When we arrived, the girls were pumping some cool tunes in their room and hanging out while the guys were getting a last minute bite to eat.  Fun all around.  Love was in the air and so was beauty! And how do I even begin to describe a beautiful bride braving the cold and windy weather, to climb a ladder to the rooftop of the 32nd floor of the W in her gorgeous Vera Wang gown and Christian Louboutin’s (an awesome gift from her mother in law!)??!!! I’m speechless.  Nina and Jimmy rocked this day and their friends and family had a wonderful time celebrating them.  What can I say about Nina & Jimmy except that perhaps they should be models? In our profession, one of the hardest things to do is narrow down images from a really great shoot, and this day made my job pretty tough!  Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed too well, so prepare yourself for lots of amazing images…

Jimmy & Nina, congratulations to the two of you.  May many good things fill your marriage & life together.  It was a joy being with you on your special day.  Thanks for letting us be a part of it.  You guys rock.

Keep celebrating,



Makeup & Hair: Jane Kim with The Glamourist


Do Weddings Smarter | The Real Truth

Today I’m going to give it to you straight…the real truth about weddings. Ready?

If you’ve been following our twitter (damionhamilton) or facebook lately, you might have known that we just moved about two weeks ago.  One of the really interesting things about moving is that it helps you find lost or even forgotten treasures.  As usual, I was thinking about what to write about next.  Though I have a long list of topics to discuss, I always try to think what would be the next natural progression in our little “Do Weddings Smarter” chats.  I was pondering that when I came across something that I had written a long time ago, November 20, 1998, to be exact.  It was actually a poem that I had completely forgotten about called “One Pivotal Moment” and it was about…our wedding day.  This poem was written five months to the day after we were married (we got married pretty young…I don’t really advise that!) and it seems the swirl and emotions of the actual day were still very fresh and vivid in my mind.  Here’s what it says:

“One Pivotal Moment”

It seemed like an eternity

standing behind the closed doors.

Me crying, my dad making light of the situation,

and the photographer, begging us both to smile.


My destiny lay behind that door,

All my hopes and dreams beckoning,

every single day of the rest of my life

with hundreds of people waiting to seal my fate.


I was an emotion puzzle too complex to sort out,

overwhelmed by a thousand and one sensations.

Nervousness of hoping that all the details turned out just right,

Elation at the thought of my day,

Disbelief that these 24 hours were actually here,

Awe at the beauty that was more than I ever dreamed of.


We stood still, my Dad & I,

Listening intently for the bells, our cue.

I heard it ring

and stepped right off,

right into the fulfillment of my dreams and desires.


Reading this poem for probably the first time in thirteen years, never imagining that I would have been involved in more weddings than my own when it was written, what really stood out to me was this truth:  when I was standing at the end of that aisle, I wasn’t focused on the groomsmen attire or the bridesmaids attire or the wedding favors or the flowers or the cake or….on and on and on.  What was burning in my mind was the rush of emotion of waiting to join my beloved at the end of the aisle.  That was what mattered to me and really what the whole concept of the poem was about…the beginning of our future together.

So, as much as we spend time planning all of the little details and working it all out…remember that this is the real truth..a wedding is about the love that two people share and building their destiny and future together.  I would encourage you to never, never lose sight of this: as much as we emphasize the decor, design, and little choices, remember that all of that will be gone by the next day.  What remains is love.

Keep loving,


Damion and Julie Hamilton June 20, 1998

Damion & Julie  Hamilton–13 years later

Photo by Sarah Lane Studios

PS…and come back next week because we’re going to be sharing our thoughts and insight about (duh, duh, duh–sing it)….Families in the Bridal Party. Hope ya still love me after that!

Damion - March 19, 2012 - 7:59 am

Ha ha!! Thank you my friend!!! And happy upcoming to your ever memorable 5.12 :) Julie xoxo

Eddie Bojorquez - February 23, 2012 - 6:32 pm

Aww…. love you guys! Happy belated, my friends!

Barn Wedding - October 4, 2011 - 1:39 am

Wow, that was a nice wedding. I love the bride’s gown and she really look so pretty. Congratulations to them and best wishes.

Kim & Dustin’s Wedding | Damion Hamilton | Napa Wedding Photographer

Kim & Dustin chose a perfect day in Rocklin to tie the knot and share with their family & friends.  Kim & Dustin also elected to do something very wise with their day that I would urge you to consider if you are facing the same dilemma.  They didn’t have a “sky’s the limit” budget for their photography, but they made a very wise choice with what they did have.  Instead of using the funds that they had to pay a mediocre photographer to come for an entire day, they chose to use their money wisely by paying for a great photographer (just Damion) to document the wedding for a shorter period of time, but still covering all of the necessities.  This is what we call an “elopement” style package, even though they didn’t elope obviously! If wedding photography is one of the three most important priorities for your wedding, this is a great idea….it’s more important to have great pictures from the beginning and then purchase the disk or album later on, than to never begin with good pictures in the first place.  You can’t go back and re-do the wedding if you don’t like the pictures! Just some food for thought.

Many congratulations to Kim & Dustin!!

Keep focused,



Do Weddings Smarter: Groomsmen Attire

From those lovely powder blue suits with the ruffle shirt alongside leisure suits, to Miami Vice style sports jacket with colored t shirts & loafers with no socks, to three piece suits and formal tuxedos, men’s wedding attire has seen quite a few trends over the last few decades! Boy, am I glad we’re past the 70′s AND the cummerbund stage of the 90′s too! Since we started off talking last week about bridesmaid dresses, I thought it only fair to dive into the topic of men’s wear this week.  This Do Weddings Smarter series is a series of thoughts shared to get you thinking about how to achieve the goals and desires that you really want for your wedding day, so let’s talk about groomsmen attire.

ORIGIN: Similarly to the bridesmaids, it is thought that the groomsmen attire was created to be similar to the groom’s attire so as to confuse the evil spirits.  If a jealous or evil spirit came to bother the groom, of course, they would be confused and not know which man was the groom.  The main difference though is that the concept of groomsmen came about during the wedding-by-capture era.  In other words, you went and kidnapped your wife, and your buddies stood guard as a small army to protect you from the family or anyone that might want to steal her!

GOAL: The goal with men’s attire currently is to reflect and add to the color and style of your beautiful day.  Many more men now are choosing self expression over tradition in their wedding attire. Men, always be sure to check with your bride though..don’t want any fights breaking out here;)When we got married, there weren’t a lot of elements that Damion really cared about, but his attire was one of them, so he chose what he and the groomsmen wore.  He has good taste, so he was trustworthy!

When it comes to weddings, one of the trends that we see most often is the three piece suit.  This suit consists of the pants, jacket, and vest with either a bow tie or a tie.  As a photographer, and again this is simply my opinion, I am not too fond of three piece suits and here’s why:  although they look very nice, there is a problem with the vests.  Once things are getting relaxed and the buttons on the jacket come undone, we have a challenge as a photographer….white shirts peeking out of the bottom and other places. Because of the nature of rentals and inherent differences between body types and sizes, this is a VERY common issue and the vest themselves fit each person differently and produce a variety of effects because they are not custom fitted.  I have removed the heads to protect the innocent, but here are some examples of the vest issues that I am talking about:

I want to encourage you think outside of the box (here I go with that again!).  There are SO many options available to men today that are very flattering and stylish and reflect the style, theme & personality of your wedding.  Remember that when you’re selecting men’s wear, you will want to consider the season/temperature and the type of event.  For instance, if you’re having a garden wedding in the summer, please don’t have your poor groomsmen wear a dark wool tuxedo! I’ve gathered a huge variety of thoughts and ideas here on my Pinterest Board, Groomsmen Attire, for you to look at and hopefully take inspiration from.  Here is a great article from GQ with some other options for wedding attire & tips for men’s wear. Here are just a few options:

1) A beautiful suit: Most appropriate for a day wedding or informal wedding.  Between the suit and, tie, and/or pocket square, you can create an unlimited palette of color combinations! There are websites such as The Tie Bar that feature an amazing array of ties specifically categorized by color or pattern.

2) Military Dress: Striking & always classic.

3. Black Tie/Tuxedo: Timeless. Most appropriate for evening weddings and formal events. My personal favorite.

And lastly, I thought I would share with you the tiniest little suit I’ve ever seen! Honestly, I don’t know exactly how long a baby would stay in this cute little outfit, but it was adorable and I hope it leaves you with a smile too!

So, what are your thoughts? How are you planning to dress your groomsmen appropriately for the season and your type & style of wedding?? We’d love to hear what creative ideas you are considering!! Please do share:)


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