Are you shooting a wedding soon? Not sure what to ask the client ahead of time? Here are my 7 must ask questions that you, as the photographer, need to know and should be included in your client’s wedding checklist. These questions will help the wedding day run so much smoother—making sure you client is happy and that you feel prepared for what is to come. This is also the way to avoid that dreaded shot list. Yuck!
What is a wedding checklist?
A wedding checklist is simply a form to collect information about your couple’s wedding before you actually photograph the wedding. It includes important information and allows you to know the vibe and flow of the day as well. I send a wedding checklist to every one of my wedding couples about one month ahead of time. I have sent a wedding checklist since the beginning of my business (back when I used to make editable PDF files) but I now send this using a form program—my favorite is Machform but there are tons of options. Different photographers do different versions of this (some do an in-person meeting before the wedding). My checklist accompanies a phone call to go over all the logistics once they have submitted the form for me. A checklist allows a lot of lead-in questions and, more importantly, gives you all of the information in one place so it is easy to look up, print, share with your second shooter, etc. Below lists the 7 must-ask questions of the wedding checklist to be sure you get all the pertinent info.
1. General Wedding Day Questions
Have you ever heard those horror stories of a photographer who doesn’t show up on the wedding day. Ohmygosh I start to sweat even thinking about this. I always make sure my calendar is perfectly aligned but I also have the phone call so something like this never happens. I think this may be the most simple but also most important questions to ask for the wedding checklist. I just can’t imagine showing up on a wedding day without this info. So you should ask general wedding day questions like the wedding date and your expected coverage time for the wedding. Also, not only do I ask the date but also make sure I go over the day of the week as well, just so I never get this part messed up.
2. Personal Info Questions
This isn’t so much for the wedding day but also knowing addresses and other important info. Years from now you could still log into your form manager and have all the info in one place. Information like names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. You need to be able to contact your clients on the day of and after the fact, to send information or products, and having this info in one place makes it so much easier.
You never want to get the venue wrong (like when two places are named something very similar). There should be a section on venues and addresses from getting ready, ceremony, and reception (which may be the same). But knowing exact addresses for everything as given by your client will help to avoid any mess ups if the name of a place is very similar to another. Or just giving a random name to your second shooter, I always am able to send a version of the checklist so my second shooter also has addresses when needed.
4. Important People
Okay, a wedding day has the couples’ very most important people with them. Family, friends, relatives, co-workers. I like to ask specifically about important people. This is the list of names of parents, grandparents, wedding party, and anyone playing a special role in the wedding. This is also a great time to ask about family dynamics (in case of divorces or other unknown facts). Knowing who everyone is can really help when you are setting up family portraits and it helps to make things far less awkward when you actually can call people by name.
5. Important Photos
So you might be wondering how I avoid that dreaded shot list. Instead of a shot list…I ask for important photos. This gives me a chance to talk with my couple and figure out the most important moments for them. Ask about what they are focused on for family portraits, wedding party portraits, and more. Something more traditional? More fun? Candids? This question allows me to write down important photos and not get a crazy shot list that is 100 images long (eeeeek that gives me hives even thinking about it).
6. Events & Timeline
I can’t believe someone would go into photographing a wedding without knowing the timeline. The timeline—even if it changes—will give you a good idea of when things are happening so you can be sure never to miss an important moment. I set up my checklist call in the 2 weeks before the wedding, that way I know my couple has their timeline solidified and we can discuss the schedule and make changes if necessary.
7. Vendor Information
Have you ever photographed a wedding and truly loved a vendor (maybe someone a little more obscure like the balloon person, or caricature artist)? I know I have, and it is so annoying when you don’t actually have that vendor’s information. I love to know who I am working with. This is so helpful in writing the blog post, sending vendor photos after the wedding, and creating a relationship with really fantastic vendors. I have my clients share all of this info so once again, it is all in one place to refer to.
My personal wedding checklist that I send my client’s actually has each of these must ask questions as sections or categories within the wedding checklist. The checklist is about 4-5 pages when everything is complete. I print and keep that copy with me. Then email a pdf to my second shooter for them to follow and check on with me throughout the day. I truly use this checklist the entire day to be sure I haven’t missed anything important and that I got everything on my couple’s wishlist. I hope this helps as you embark on your wedding season as well!