Puerto Vallarta Destination Wedding Guide: Photography & Music (Chapter 8)

A wedding photographer photographs bride and groom on the beach at their Puerto Vallarta destination wedding

Build your creative wedding team of photographers, videographers, and musicians, plus a photography shot list and a guide to scoring the ceremony and reception.

 

In this article:
I. Hiring a wedding photographer
II. The wedding photography shot list
III. Hiring a wedding videographer
IV. Hiring musicians & DJs
V. Scoring the ceremony and reception

 

We’ve come to my favorite part of the series: the creative process. Music will guide the entire wedding, from the moment you walk down the aisle to the last people on the dance floor. It also creates a soundtrack for your special day. “Married Life” by Michael Giacchino still brings tears to my eyes as it transports me back to our first dance at our Puerto Vallarta wedding. And of course, hiring a quality photographer and videographer to capture it all is essential. So many brides tell us that their wedding day goes by in a flash and how happy they are to have a photo and video collection to remember it by.

 

Hiring a Wedding Photographer

This is where our expertise shines — as we have over seven years of experience as wedding photographers in Puerto Vallarta. Photography is truly an art form, and high-quality photography can be pricey, albeit less so in Mexico. However, we do have a few tips for keeping costs down. For example, hire a photographer only for the wedding day and opt for your friends’ snapshots of other wedding events such as the rehearsal dinner. Also, consider hiring your photographer for a shorter period, say 6 hours instead of 12 hours. You can tell your photographer you’d like just the very end of “getting ready” photos and just the very beginning of the after-party, which should trim down the hours.

When hiring a wedding photographer, decide which photography style you like. Do you prefer portrait or candid, film or digital, color or black and white? Knowing what you like will help you find the photographer that’s right for you. When speaking with possible photographers, ask for full wedding galleries. Many photographers put their very best photos on their website portfolio, but you want to see that they can carry that same quality throughout a wedding.

Here are additional questions you can ask your photographer:

  • How would you describe your photography style?
  • (See next section on different photography styles)
  • Do you shoot film or digital?
  • Do you prefer to shoot in black and white or color? If you do both, what’s the typical breakdown?
  • Do you bring an assistant? This might mean another photographer. Ask to see samples of his or her work but normally the photos are intermingled in a wedding gallery and hopefully have a consistent style.
  • What are your rates? What’s the rate for extra hours?
  • How soon after the wedding will l receive my photos?
  • How will photos be delivered?
  • Will there be a way to share photos online?
  • Will you stand by the quoted fees, even if you raise your rates before my wedding?
  • Do you bring lighting equipment? Some use available light; others rig up elaborate lighting setups. The difference can be dramatic, especially if you’re in low light.
  • What type of clothing will you and your assistant wear? Let him or her know if you have any preferences.
  • How many photographers do you think I need for my wedding? If you have more than 100 guests, two is preferable to capture different angles and candid moments.
  • How much of a deposit is required to hold the date?
  • When is the balance due?
  • What is the cancellation policy?
  • How many weddings do you book per day? What happens if you’re late or unable to attend?
  • How many pictures will you take? How many of those will I see?
  • Will you visit the ceremony and reception sites before the wedding day?

 

Finding Your Wedding Photography Style

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll discuss three photography styles: Traditional, Fine Art, and Photojournalistic.

Traditional wedding photography emphasizes posed, formal portraits of the couple, their families, and the wedding party. The photographer provides direction to ensure everyone looks their best and is positioned correctly. Classic shots, such as the couple’s first kiss, cutting the cake, and bouquet toss, are also emphasized. The traditional style is perfect for couples who want classic, timeless wedding photos that showcase the importance of the day’s events.  

Fine art wedding photography is characterized by a creative, artistic approach to capturing images. Photographers carefully consider composition, lighting, and ambiance to create visually stunning photos. This style often involves some level of post-processing to enhance the final images, creating a unique and polished aesthetic. The fine art style is perfect for couples who want their wedding photos to be more than just documentation of their special day but also works of art. 

Photojournalistic wedding photography is perfect for couples who want a natural, unposed approach to their wedding photos. This style is inspired by traditional journalism, with the photographer taking a hands-off approach to capture candid moments and genuine emotions. The photojournalistic style allows the events of the day to progress organically, without any interference from the photographer. This style is perfect for couples who want their wedding photos to tell the story of their special day without any artificial poses or staged shots.

Chas Studios, for example, is closer to a photojournalistic photography style, however, we are sure to still get the essential portraits of families and the wedding party. This approach captures the wedding day as it unfolds naturally while ensuring we have photos of the couple with the most important people on their big day. Our photographic style can also be described as soft, organic, and classic, using lots of natural light and minimal editing to maintain the natural beauty of photos. However, we do bring lighting equipment for the after-party to ensure all photos are properly lit. Pro tip: Another great way to get spontaneous party snaps is to share a hashtag with your guests so they can Instagram moments that may have been missed.

Further reading: 7 Wedding Photography Styles To Consider When Hiring a Photographer

Before you sign with a photographer, be sure your contract includes the following items:

  • The date of the wedding, the arrival time, and the location.
  • The pre-wedding meeting date and time.
  • The number of hours of photography, and a detailed list of everything included in the coverage.
  • The time frame of when you will receive your photos, and the delivery format.
  • The total fee, the deposit amount, and the date the balance is due.
  • The cancellation policy and the rate for overtime.

 

The Wedding Photography Shot List

If working with an experienced wedding photographer, a shot list isn’t completely necessary as he or she will know the most important moments to capture. Furthermore, during family and wedding party portraits, you can be sure to get photos with the most important people on your special day and skip the portrait shot list. However, it might be helpful to see what a normal shot list looks like. Download your free wedding photography shotlist here.

“Getting Ready” Photos

  1. Wedding dress, hanging or draped: To capture the beauty and details of the bride’s wedding dress, photographers can photograph it hanging from a tree or a window, or draped over a chair. This shot can also include a close-up of the dress details, such as lace, beading, or embroidery.
  2. Bride’s shoes, jewelry, and accessories: Photographing the bride’s shoes, jewelry, and other accessories can include close-up shots of the details such as the glitter, the color, or the embellishments. For example, capturing the sparkle of diamond earrings or the intricate design of a necklace can add depth and personality to the overall wedding album.
  3. Bouquets and boutonnieres: Capturing the floral arrangements and boutonnieres is an important detail that adds to the overall theme and colors of the wedding. Photographers can shoot them from different angles, including an overhead shot, a close-up of the flowers, or a detail shot of the ribbons or pins.
  4. Wedding invitations and stationery: Photographing the wedding invitations and other stationery can include a flat lay image of the invitation suite, which can be styled with the wedding rings, the flowers, or other wedding-related items to create a cohesive theme. Additionally, close-up shots of the font or design elements can also be included.
  5. Bride and bridesmaids getting ready: Capturing the moments of the bride and her bridesmaids getting ready can include candid shots of them laughing, hugging, or sharing a toast. These moments can be documented in a photojournalistic style, creating a story of the day from start to finish.
  6. Groom and groomsmen getting ready: Photographing the groom and his groomsmen getting ready can include shots of them tying their ties, putting on their cufflinks, or sharing a drink. These moments can also be captured in a candid, photojournalistic style, showcasing their personalities and relationships.
  7. Candid shots of family members and friends preparing for the day: Capturing candid shots of family members and friends preparing for the wedding can include them fixing their hair, putting on their makeup, or helping the bride or groom with their accessories. These moments can add a personal touch to the wedding album, showcasing the love and support of those closest to the couple.


    “First Look” Photos

  8. Bride and groom seeing each other for the first time before the ceremony: If the couple decides to do a First Look before the ceremony, the photographer can capture this intimate moment of the couple seeing each other for the first time in a secluded area. This can create an emotional and special moment that is not seen by the guests during the ceremony.
  9. Reaction of the bride and groom: Capturing the reaction of the bride and groom during the First Look can showcase their emotions and excitement for the day. This moment can include a close-up shot of their expressions, including smiles, tears, or a gasp of surprise.
  10. A few posed portraits of the couple: Following the First Look, the photographer can take a few posed portraits of the couple. This can include capturing the natural chemistry between them or incorporating scenic backdrops, such as a nearby garden or a cityscape, to create stunning and memorable images. The photographer can also incorporate creative techniques, such as framing the couple through a nearby object, such as a tree or a doorway, to add depth and interest to the shot.


    Ceremony Photos

  11. Exterior and interior shots of the ceremony venue: Photographing the exterior and interior of the ceremony venue can add context and atmosphere to the wedding album. This can include capturing the grand entrance of the venue, as well as shots of the ceremony setup, such as the altar, aisle, and floral arrangements.
  12. Guests arriving and being seated: Photographing the guests arriving and being seated can create a sense of anticipation and excitement for the ceremony. These shots can include candid shots of guests hugging, chatting, or smiling as they take their seats.
  13. Wedding party entrance: Capturing the entrance of the wedding party, including the bridesmaids and groomsmen, can add a sense of drama and excitement to the ceremony. These shots can include capturing the wedding party walking down the aisle, showcasing their personalities and style.
  14. Bride’s entrance: The moment the bride walks down the aisle is one of the most memorable moments of the wedding. Photographers can capture this special moment from different angles, including a close-up of the bride’s expression or a wide shot of the aisle.
  15. Groom’s reaction to the bride’s entrance: Capturing the groom’s reaction to the bride’s entrance can be a touching moment, showcasing the emotions of the day. This can include a close-up shot of the groom’s expression or a wider shot that includes the bride and groom.
  16. Exchange of vows: Capturing the exchange of vows can be one of the most emotional moments of the ceremony. Photographers can focus on capturing the expressions and emotions of the couple as they speak their vows to each other.
  17. Ring exchange: The moment when the couple exchanges rings is an important detail to capture. Photographers can focus on capturing the hands of the couple or a close-up of the rings themselves.
  18. The first kiss as a married couple: The first kiss as a married couple is a special moment to capture. Photographers can focus on capturing the expression and emotions of the couple, as well as the reaction of the guests.
  19. The signing of the marriage certificate: Photographing the signing of the marriage certificate can add a sense of authenticity to the wedding album. This can include a close-up shot of the couple’s hands as they sign the certificate or a wider shot that includes the officiant and witnesses.
  20. Recessional – the couple walking down the aisle together: The recessional is the moment when the couple walks down the aisle together for the first time as a married couple. Photographers can capture this moment from different angles, including a shot of the guests cheering or throwing confetti.
  21. Guests tossing confetti, petals, or blowing bubbles (if applicable): If the couple chooses to have the guests toss confetti, petals, or blow bubbles, this can create a fun and memorable moment to capture. Photographers can focus on capturing the joy and excitement of the guests as they celebrate the newlyweds.


    Family and Group Portraits

  22. Bride and groom with their immediate families: Photographing the bride and groom with their immediate families can include a group shot of everyone, as well as individual shots with each family member. This can be an important detail to capture, as it showcases the families coming together to celebrate the couple.
  23. Bride and groom with their extended families: Photographing the bride and groom with their extended families can include a group shot of everyone, as well as individual shots with each family member. This can be a larger group shot that includes aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives.
  24. Bride and groom with their wedding party: Capturing the bride and groom with their wedding party can showcase the personalities and style of the wedding party. This can include a group shot of the entire wedding party, as well as individual shots with each member.
  25. Bride with her bridesmaids: Photographing the bride with her bridesmaids can showcase the close bond and friendship between the bride and her closest friends. This can include candid shots of them laughing or hugging, as well as posed shots in various locations.
  26. Groom with his groomsmen: Photographing the groom with his groomsmen can showcase the camaraderie and friendship between the groom and his closest friends. This can include candid shots of them joking around or sharing a drink, as well as posed shots in various locations.
  27. Bride and groom with any special guests or relatives: If there are any special guests or relatives that the couple wants to include in their wedding album, photographers can capture these moments by photographing the couple with them. This can include close family members, such as grandparents or close friends who have traveled a long distance to attend the wedding.


    Couple Portraits

  28. Bride and groom together in various poses and locations: Photographing the bride and groom together in various poses and locations can showcase their love and connection. This can include posed shots in scenic locations, as well as candid shots that capture their natural chemistry.
  29. Close-up shots of the couple: Capturing close-up shots of the couple can highlight the small details, such as the bride’s makeup or the groom’s suit. This can add depth and personality to the wedding album.
  30. Full-length shots of the couple: Capturing full-length shots of the couple can showcase their outfits and style, as well as the scenic locations around them.


    Reception Photos

  31. Exterior and interior shots of the reception venue: Photographing the exterior and interior of the reception venue can add context and atmosphere to the wedding album. This can include capturing the grand entrance of the venue, as well as shots of the reception setup, such as the table settings and decor.
  32. Table settings and reception details (centerpieces, favors, etc.): Capturing the table settings and reception details can add a sense of personality and theme to the wedding album. This can include close-up shots of the centerpieces, the favors, or other decorative elements.
  33. The couple’s grand entrance: Photographing the couple’s grand entrance can be a memorable moment to capture, showcasing their excitement and enthusiasm for the reception.
  34. Toasts and speeches: Capturing the toasts and speeches can add a sense of authenticity and emotion to the wedding album. This can include candid shots of the speakers, as well as close-up shots of the couple’s reactions.
  35. First dance: Photographing the first dance can be a romantic moment to capture, showcasing the couple’s love and connection. This can include shots from different angles, including a close-up shot of the couple’s hands or a wider shot that includes the dance floor.
  36. Parent dances (father-daughter, mother-son): Capturing the parent dances can be a touching moment to capture, showcasing the love and bond between the couple and their parents. This can include close-up shots of the parents and the couple, as well as candid shots of the guests watching.
  37. Cake cutting: Photographing the cake cutting can be a fun moment to capture, showcasing the couple’s playful side. This can include a close-up shot of the couple cutting the cake, as well as wider shots that include the guests and the cake itself.
  38. Bouquet and garter toss (if applicable): If the couple chooses to have a bouquet and garter toss, this can create a fun and memorable moment to capture. Photographers can focus on capturing the joy and excitement of the guests as they participate in the toss.
  39. Candid shots of guests dancing and enjoying the celebration: Capturing candid shots of guests dancing and enjoying the celebration can add a sense of liveliness and energy to the wedding album. This can include shots of guests laughing, dancing, or engaging in other activities.
  40. Couple’s exit or send-off: Photographing the couple’s exit or send-off can be a romantic and memorable moment to capture. This can include shots of the couple leaving the reception, as well as shots of the guests waving goodbye or blowing bubbles.

 

Top 10 Puerto Vallarta Wedding Photographers

From classic and timeless to artistic and emotive, the photographers on this list represent some of the best talents in the region. Whether you envision cinematic videography, photojournalistic candids, or fine art portraits, these top-rated pros can preserve your big day in a style that speaks to you. With extensive experience shooting both intimate elopements and grand celebrations in stunning locales like Sayulita, Punta Mita, and beyond, they’ll ensure your most precious moments are immortalized forever.

Get the list: Top 10 Puerto Vallarta Wedding Photographers 

 

Hiring a Wedding Videographer

Similar to hiring a photographer, choosing a wedding videographer can ensure the best moments from your wedding are preserved. However, rather than still shots, you can relive your wedding through a short film. Many photographers team up with a videographer, which can be helpful to ensure your photos and video have a cohesive style. It’s also a big plus because it can streamline the communication process. However, at some point, you should speak directly to the videographer to be sure you’re on the same page. Here are some vital questions to ask:

  • How long have you been doing weddings, and how many weddings have you done?
  • Do you shoot on digital or film?
  • What kind of equipment do you use? Why? Although you’ll have little knowledge of what he’s talking about, you’ll get a sense of his expertise.
  • If you shoot on film, what type of film and why do you like that format? Super 8 is the norm, although 16 mm is not uncommon.
  • What is your videography style?
  • How do you handle lighting?
  • How do you handle sound? Be sure he has good sound equipment to properly mic the bride and groom during the vows.
  • What kind of videos do you offer? Most videographers will offer different kinds of videos, including documentary-style videos (up to 10 minutes), highlight videos (3-5 minutes), and 60-second Instagram teasers.
  • Have you worked in my wedding venue before? If so, do you have any suggestions? Will you visit the site in advance?
  • Can I choose the music?
  • Do you offer packages? How many hours of coverage are included in the package?
  • What is the timeframe for receiving the video?
  • How many edits/revisions are included?
  • How much of a deposit is required to hold the date? When is the balance due?
  • What is the cancellation policy?


Be sure to get the following in the contract with your videographer:

  • The date of the wedding, the arrival time, and the location.
  • The pre-wedding meeting date and time.
  • The number of hours of videography, and a detailed list of everything included in the coverage.
  • The time frame of when you will receive your video, and the delivery format.
  • The total fee, the deposit amount, and the date the balance is due.
  • The cancellation policy and the rate for overtime.

 

Hiring Wedding Musicians

Before the hiring process, double-check with your venue to ensure there aren’t any fees or restrictions on bringing in outside musicians. After getting the green light, begin thinking about what type of music you’d like for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. There are many genres to consider, and hopping on Spotify and searching for playlists within that genre while imagining the wedding can be a useful practice. This is exactly what I did while planning our Puerto Vallarta wedding. As a huge music lover, I spent weeks listening to classical, salsa, samba, flamenco, jazz, and folk music. We opted for a blend of Cuban and Samba music, two of our favorite genres. Once you’ve chosen your taste, begin searching for musicians, bands, and DJs that fit your style and budget.

Here is a list of questions to ask your musicians:

  • What’s your overall approach to playing weddings? How do you pace the event?
  • How many hours of playing time are included in the contract?
  • What are the options for the size of the band and the number of vocalists?
  • What do you typically wear to play at a wedding?
  • Will you learn a song I request if you don’t know it? How much advance notice do you need?
  • Do you require any equipment or instrument rentals, such as a piano? ls there anything else I will need to provide for you?
  • Do you bring your own sound system? Some venues may have a system in place.
  • Do you need extra electrical power for your equipment?
  • Do you need a certain style of stage? What size stage do you require?
  • Do you take requests, and how do you want to handle them?
  • How long have you been performing at weddings? How many have you done in the last year? Ask for references
  • How many breaks will you take? How long is each break?
  • How is music handled during breaks? ls continuous music an option? If not, do you bring recorded music to play?
  • What kind of backup plan do you have if one or more band members fall ill or have an emergency on the day of the wedding?
  • Do you have liability insurance?
  • How long do you need to set up? Can you be set up and playing before the first guests walk in?
  • Would you like a meal?
  • If you have a special theme, ask if they have song suggestions.

Be sure to get the following points outlined in the contract with your musician:

  • Date of event.
  • Location address.
  • Arrival time, starting and ending time.
  • Number of hours the band will perform.
  • Deposit amount and date the balance is due.
  • Frequency and length of breaks, and any music they’ll provide during the breaks.
  • Fee, detailing what it includes and what equipment they’re supplying.
  • Overtime rate.
  • Cancellation and refund policies.
  • Names of the performers,
  • For a band, the number of musicians and number of vocalists. Note the instruments they’ll be playing.
  • If the Do-Not-Play list is of utmost importance to you, make it part of the contract.
  • Statement that they have valid liability insurance.

 

Scoring the Ceremony & Reception

Music has the power to alter and enhance moods. Therefore, it’s important to score your ceremony and reception keeping in mind how you want your guests (and you as a couple!) to feel during those moments. We recommend providing a detailed wedding schedule to your band or DJ about 4-6 weeks before the wedding. Feel free to send them a do-not-play list along with a list of songs you’ve selected for the following musical moments:

Ceremony Music

  • The prelude is the background music playing as people arrive.
  • The processional signals the beginning of the ceremony and plays as the bridal party walks down the aisle. Many people choose to have a second song play when the bride appears.
  • The recessional is what plays after the big kiss and the couple walks back up the aisle.
  • The postlude is the background music while guests leave the ceremony area.

Reception Music

  • The first dance should be a song that is meaningful to you as a couple.
  • Father and daughter, mother and son songs should also be meaningful and sentimental.
  • The last dance is either slow and sentimental or spicy so you go out with a big bang!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the essential considerations when hiring a wedding photographer?
    When hiring a wedding photographer, it’s crucial to consider their style, experience, rates, delivery timeline, and additional services like photo sharing and lighting equipment.
  • How can I determine the photography style that suits my wedding best?
    Understanding different styles such as traditional, fine art, and photojournalistic can help you align your preferences with the photographer’s expertise, ensuring your wedding photos reflect your vision accurately.
  • What questions should I ask a potential wedding photographer before booking?
    Inquire about their photography style, equipment, rates, availability, portfolio consistency, delivery process, attire, assistants, and contingency plans to ensure they meet your expectations and requirements.
  • Is a shot list necessary when working with an experienced wedding photographer?
    While not always essential, a shot list can be helpful for ensuring specific moments are captured, especially during “Getting Ready,” “First Look,” and other significant segments of the wedding day.
  • What key moments should be included in a photography shot list?
    A comprehensive shot list should encompass various stages like “Getting Ready,” “First Look,” ceremony highlights, family and group portraits, couple portraits, and reception festivities to ensure nothing essential is missed.
  • How does hiring a videographer complement the work of a wedding photographer?
    While photographers capture still moments, videographers preserve the dynamic essence of your wedding day through moving images, providing a comprehensive narrative that complements photography beautifully.
  • What factors should I consider when hiring a wedding videographer?
    Factors such as videographer’s experience, equipment, videography style, handling of lighting and sound, package offerings, familiarity with the venue, music selection, delivery timeline, and contractual terms are crucial for making an informed decision.
  • Why is it important to verify venue policies before hiring musicians for a wedding?
    Understanding venue policies regarding external musicians can help avoid unexpected fees or restrictions, ensuring a seamless integration of live music into your ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception.
  • What questions should I ask when interviewing potential wedding musicians?
    Inquire about their approach to weddings, repertoire, band size, attire, willingness to learn new songs, equipment needs, experience, references, setup time, meal preferences, and contingency plans to ensure a perfect musical accompaniment to your special day.
  • How can I ensure the music selection for my wedding ceremony and reception aligns with my preferences?
    Providing a detailed wedding schedule along with preferred songs and a “do-not-play” list to your musicians or DJ well in advance allows for a personalized musical experience that sets the desired ambiance throughout your wedding day.
Taylor Wade headshot

Author:

Hi, I'm Taylor, the Creative Director at Chas Studios. I co-founded a matchmaking company at the age of 16 and have since amassed two decades of experience in the dating and relationship industry. My deep understanding spans critical areas, from the spiritual growth potential within relationships to navigating finances with your partner. In 2017, just two weeks after relocating to Mexico City, I met and fell head over heels for Diego, who was working in the fashion and editorial world at the time. We subsequently moved to Puerto Vallarta and launched Chas Studios, a photography and film house specializing in weddings and events. We also married in Puerto Vallarta in 2023 allowing us to offer our local knowledge and experience to our readers. 

Are you looking for a wedding photographer for your destination wedding in Mexico?

Chas Studios has an instantly recognizable aesthetic, defined by the soft, organic, and classic qualities that film provides. As a bespoke photography service, we apply a highly personalized and hand-crafted approach to each and every wedding. Our team goes above and beyond for our clients to stay true to our mission: to provide a one-of-a-kind wedding experience! Submit an application to receive a custom quote.

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