I've already shared my best tips for photographing weddings and taking care of your body while pregnant, and today I wanted to focus specifically on planning for the third trimester. Here are 9 ways that we planned for our last 5 weddings (all done at 30+ weeks). (And if you need proof that I do NOT have a basketball under my shirt... just take a look at those poor swollen feet! Yikes!)
- Naturally, the first step is to decide how and when to tell your clients. That's a really personal decision and a much bigger topic than I can get into here. Ryan and I decided to meet personally with all of our third trimester brides to share the news and address any concerns they might have before we made our news public.
- Stop booking weddings for the third trimester. We had already booked a handful of fall weddings when we found out we were due in November, and we immediately stopped booking for August-December. We were confident that we would be able to take good care of the clients that were already on our calendar, but we also wanted to be smart and give ourselves extra time to get the editing and blogging done. (And extra time to recover from each wedding day!) Yes, that meant we had to turn down several wonderful couples with September, October, and November weddings, and that was a bummer, but we referred them to our favorite photographer friends who all do amazing work and would give them incredible experiences!
- On the booking note, don't rush back into weddings after baby either. You have NO IDEA how that's going to go. I will admit, we almost took a wedding for February. And after the bride sent us an email that she decided to book someone else, I realized how stupid that would have been. I had looked at the calendar and said to myself "He will be 15 weeks old. We'll be fine." And if we had planned to bottle feed, we probably would have been. But we didn't and we only gave Darcy three bottles a WEEK until he was about 12 weeks old. Leaving him for an entire day (including bedtime) would have been a HUGE change in our routine, and it would have taken me two full months to get us ready for that! Talk about stressful!
- Save space in your calendar. More than you think you need! During the third trimester, you go to the doctor a LOT, even if you don't have any complications. I was also getting regular massages and doing restorative yoga to help take care of my body. And on top of that, I was trying to get our nursery ready and work ahead for maternity leave. I had plenty to keep me busy!
- Get everything else off your plate first. We didn't have weddings for the hottest weeks of the summer, so I used that time to get as many baby projects done as possible. We also outsourced our editing, which cleared up a huge chunk of my work time on wedding weeks. (What a game changer! If you haven't started outsourcing yet, pregnancy is the time to do it!) When our third trimester weddings came around, especially those last three, I knew that was the only thing I had to focus on that week. Blogging and social media was already done and scheduled. Other personal tasks had been taken care of. My only to do items were to give our couples a great experience and to take care of myself.
- Have a lightning fast workflow in place. With those last couple of weddings, I wanted the editing and post processing done ASAP. Even though I knew in my brain that the baby wasn't on the way quite yet, and my body wasn't giving me any signs that it was go time, I still felt an immense pressure to get things done quickly. It had to be done perfectly and it had to be done now! I was nesting my business hardcore! And since I already had a solid client workflow in place, I could easily run down the list of to do items for each client, getting them done in record time without feeling anxious that I was missing something!
- Have a backup plan. Ryan and I have a small network of other husband-and-wife photography teams that we know really well. We share our Google calendars with each other, so we can send referrals when we're booked. I knew at least one of them was available for each of our third trimester wedding days, so about 8 weeks before (when it was unlikely that they'd get an inquiry of their own), I asked them to put one of our wedding dates on the calendar. If Ryan and I were unable to do the wedding because I went into labor early, the husband-and-wife team would go in our place (with all of our client information about the event) and we would do the editing and finish the process with the client. If I was on bed rest for some reason, one of the photographers would join Ryan for the wedding day. Having this process (and the rate they would be paid) spelled out in advance was such a relief for us even though we were confident that we wouldn't need it. (It was also important for us to assure the couple that we had everything under control. We didn't want them to have anything to stress about!)
- Bring an assistant if you need it. Even if you're not sure that you need it. We had a 3rd shooter for our final wedding and an assistant for the one before that. I let my brides know that I would be bringing someone along a month or so before the wedding (and that I would take care of their dinner) but I waited until a week before to make the decision on whether we needed an assistant or a 3rd shooter. Our assistant was a super sweet past bride and her tasks were to carry a bag for me with snacks, water, and my clipboard. (Ryan carries the majority of our gear.) She reminded me to sit down when we had a short break, held my camera when I ran to the bathroom, and stood in line to get me a soda during cocktail hour. She also brought me things that I left across the room. (That felt a little silly, but I knew that every chance I had to sit down instead of walk across the room would help me bounce back quickly!)
- Use a 3rd shooter to give yourself breaks while still covering the entire day with the number of photographers you promise in your contract. For our final wedding, we asked my friend Lauren to be our 3rd photographer. Lauren is a lead photographer as well, so I trusted her 100% to cover everything that I would normally do. I took lead during most of the day (like getting ready, the first look, and portrait time), but I sat down and let Lauren and Ryan photograph the ceremony. I also took a few 15 minute breaks during the dancing portion of the reception, leaving Lauren and Ryan to cover everything. Three photographers might seem like overkill, but there was no way I was going to miss the wedding unless I was on bed rest, and I knew having Lauren would allow me to relax and rest a little bit, which helped me recover more quickly.