Wedding suppliers often have lots of beautiful photos of the work they’ve done. Some photos look as if they could be taken for bridal magazines with their dreamy locations and model couples. Other photos look like normal people at a normal wedding. You might have even noticed wedding suppliers using words and hashtags like ‘styled shoot’ or ‘real wedding’? Are they different things? Why would wedding suppliers use both? This post will tell you everything you need to know about styled shoots and real weddings.
What is a styled shoot?
As part of a styled photo shoot, a number of wedding suppliers will come together to showcase what they do. Sometimes shoots will only involve a few suppliers. Other times, shoots will be huge, orchestrated events with 12+ suppliers. They will always involve a photographer (obviously!) and often will also showcase a venue, bridal boutique, MUA, and stylist or wedding planner too. Beyond those key suppliers, it often depends on the type of shoot as to what other suppliers are included. You might also see tableware hire, marquee hire, cake, caterer, special touches, stationer, florist, videographer etc..
The idea is to re-create elements of a wedding (or party) in order to display different products and services. In many ways, the group will also be hoping to inspire new trends or show customers what those suppliers can do within a trend. They might all be preferred suppliers to a particular venue, or just collaborating for the particular shoot. Nobody gets paid but wedding suppliers are able to use these high quality photos to advertise their products or services.
Very often, these photos will fill the pages of national wedding magazines like You & Your Wedding and some of the popular wedding blogs like Rock My Wedding. Shoots are designed to look perfect and will often involve models (rather than real couples). They are managed in the same way as product marketing photoshoots for adverts. Shoots should and will look like the stuff of your wedding dreams, because they are coordinated, orchestrated shoots!
What happens on a styled shoot?
Trends or themes are decided at the very start of a shoot’s journey – rustic, modern, urban, bright, coastal elopement. The organiser (usually a planner, stylist or photographer) will put together a mood board to help others understand their vision. Wedding suppliers are then recruited to the shoot based on the theme and everyone continues to build upon ideas as the shoot comes together. Suppliers will even start to build ideas about how they can work together to create cohesive scenes rather than just bringing their individual elements. That might mean a florist and cake maker coordinating flowers, or stationer and venue coordinating design elements, for example.
Before the day, some of the wedding suppliers will send in their contributions. This often happens with stationers or personal touches as suppliers could be located anywhere in the country. Some of the other wedding suppliers will be preparing their contributions, like the cake makers and florists who will need to make their elements in the days leading up to a shoot.
On shoot day, there are two parts – preparation and shooting. During preparation, hair and make-up artists will work with the models and sometimes even consult the organiser, to create the ‘look’ for the shoot. Whilst this is happening, other suppliers may be starting to set up their elements, and the photographer will be planning their shots. Although shoot timings and shots are typically planned in advance, there is always a little flexibility to allow for changes on the day. When it comes to shooting, most suppliers tend to stand back and let the organiser and/or photographer do their thing.
Who do wedding suppliers organise styled shoots?
Styled shoots have lots of advantages for wedding suppliers and couples. Themes are often bolder than real couples choose for their weddings, so it gives suppliers the chance to get really creative and can inspire couples to break the mould. Wedding suppliers also have the benefit of working together more closely and seeing the quality and professionalism of their peers. They even get to have a little bit of fun together too! If all goes well, suppliers are likely to be more confident about recommending one another. If things don’t go to plan, it also means that suppliers know why they might not want to recommend another supplier. For couples who have a very specific vision in mind, finding a styled shoot that reflects that vision is a great way to ‘tick off’ the actual companies you may wish to hire.
Of course, there is always a flip side. These two downsides aren’t always the case, but sometimes it does happen. As styled shoots aren’t ‘real weddings’, the elements that suppliers bring to the shoot don’t have to be real, they just have to look real. This might mean that wedding cakes are just dummies and the design could be impossible or at least more difficult on a real cake. Check out this blog post to read a little bit more about why dummy cakes aren’t always a true test of a cake maker’s ability.
Alternatively, some of the ideas may look amazing, but be completely impractical for a real wedding. For example, on some shoots (including some of the ones I’ve been involved with), suppliers will set up one dining table to illustrate the style. It looks beautiful and dramatic, but of course, you are going to need enough tables to seat all your guests! These are quite extreme examples, but sometimes, you just don’t get to see behind the scenes so miss out on what really happens. That beautiful photo might mean someone wading through water to place flowers on a boat, or two minutes later having the wind blow a bride’s veil off!
What is a real wedding?
The photos that you see from a ‘real wedding’ are photos taken on a real couple’s real wedding day. They might be featured on a supplier’s own blog, or they could be featured in an online blog or magazine like styled shoots. However, the difference is that most suppliers will have been paid money to be there, the food will be real, the people will be real. Some of the photos might be staged, but often, they’re probably not. If people are enjoying the food, you will be able to tell from their faces. If the bride is comfortable in her dress, she might be dancing the night away. Suppliers aren’t waiting in the wings to prop up elements that keep falling down. The different elements will have been set up during the day and will have to stand strong all night.
So if you want to see what choices other couples have made, or whether the flowers still looked beautiful at midnight, look for real weddings. Speak to the photographer or venue and ask for their feedback on suppliers. Photographers and venues will have met the suppliers as they set up on the day. They will probably have tasted the food, eaten the cake and helped to tidy up after the event. They might also have had feedback from the couple. These people will know whether the suppliers on that couple’s wedding day were good or not.
Styled shoots are beautiful, inspiring and really are the type of shots that you see gracing Pinterest boards. They are the style look books for the season and set trends. If you want a wedding that looks like something out of a magazine, then styled shoots make great inspiration. Real wedding shots document what really happens at weddings. There might be things that have gone wrong. There might be things that are so amazing, you think they are part of a styled shoot! They are the place to look if you want to see how your venue has been used by different brides. Or what your chosen wedding suppliers have delivered in the past.
If you’re planning your own wedding, look at both styled shoots and real weddings. Ask lots of questions of your wedding suppliers. Think about style vs. practicality. I’m definitely a more practical person, but others prefer style so would make different choices to me. Think about what you would both enjoy, what you need and what suits your wedding style. If you want to see photos of some of the styled shoots and real weddings that I’ve been involved with, please do get in touch. Good luck and happy planning.
With love from lila xx