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Documenting Weddings with Bailey Pianalto

Capturing, saving, and presenting the images of a wedding celebration is a process that requires a lot more thought and effort than just throwing a few photos in a scrapbook and calling it a day (although back in the day, that’s what we did!). Today’s couples want to preserve the feeling, the journey, the people, and the pieces that make up a wedding day – from start to finish. Capturing the emotion, whether it is pure joy or sentimentality or crazy fun, takes a keen eye, a big heart, and an organized, spreadsheet-kind-of-person. Bailey Pianalto immediately came to mind as the go-to photographer in the category of telling a wedding story. What follows is our conversation in Fairway over one herb tea and one latte.

Fun at Jordy and Abby’s wedding

TI: The process of documenting a wedding has changed over the years, what is different now and why?

BP: Couples have seen so much content on social media, and they think they have to capture every single moment, or they might forget something. They are afraid of missing “that one photo,” when really the approach should be looking at the whole day and the entire experience. As a photographer, I suggest that they hire a videographer, if that is something they want. And then, the photography will tell a whole different story. 

Dina and Tony’s celebration

TI: How do you start the process with an interested couple?

BP: After they have contacted me, I first have to check the date. I can only do about 15-16 weddings a year, and those popular weekends fill up fast, so I have to make sure I’m available. If they want me to travel out of town, I can certainly do that, but it takes a little more time. (One-third of Bailey’s contracts this year are for out-of-town weddings.) Next, I have a conversation with the couple. I want to find out who they are, what they are thinking, and then meet them where they are – in terms of what the wedding day will look like. 

It is important for me to find out what the couple’s priorities are for the day. Are they looking for something sentimental, or timeless, or family-oriented, or catching those “in-between” moments? I want to know what is the most important part of the day to them, and are they interested in more candid or posed photos. (At this point, I love to add in an engagement photo session, so I can get to know the couple better. It gives us a chance to build trust and be open with each other before we even get to the wedding.) 

Contracts are written for a minimum of eight hours, which allows me to be with the couple one hour before dressing, and then one hour to capture the dance floor shenanigans! 

Abby and Jordy’s wedding group

TI: You do such a beautiful job capturing the objects associated with the day, what is that like?

BP: For me, photographing the “still life” of favorite wedding objects is a warm-up exercise. I see what is important to the bride and groom, and maybe their families. It’s so touching if there are pieces that belonged to a relative or friend who can’t be at the wedding – those always bring about good stories and memories. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. 

Frances’ vignette

TI: When you are in the middle of photographing the actual wedding and reception, how do you prioritize so you get the “right stuff?”

BP: My number one goal is to read the room! I want to catch people’s reactions to things that happen organically. Sometimes, couples need to be directed and told to pose quite a bit – I can do that. And, sometimes couples just go with the flow, and I don’t have to direct, I can just collect. Either way, I use my emotional intelligence and trust my ability to get to know my couples and their families in a short amount of time. By this time in the day, I know what my couple’s vibe is, what they are looking for, and what I think will make them happy with the results. 

TI: How did you get started in this business?

BP: I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I thought I would be a travel blogger! But, I also knew that I loved taking pictures. So, I booked an engagement photo session, and I knew after that session that I was hooked! Then, I had to learn the wedding business. So I made friends with wedding planners, went to bridal shows, and I started tracking (on a spreadsheet) who I had met, who knew who, and who referred me to whom. My first wedding was in 2018, so you can see what is coming – the pandemic. During 2019 and 2020, I sent “at-home” date night packages to my couples who had had to reschedule their weddings, just to let them know I was thinking about them. 

Then, 2021 and 2022 were packed with everyone trying to fit in a rescheduled wedding. I got the feel of my business pretty quickly in those crazy couple of years. Since then, I have absolutely adored what I do, and I keep in touch with all of my couples. It is so rewarding to catch up with them later and relive the occasion. 

Joe and Taran

TI: What does the future hold for you?

BP: Well, we just built a house, so we are all moved in and settling into our new space, and I just came from spending time in the garden. As far as weddings go, I’d like to pare down the number per year to 12. And, I’d like for half of those to be in town, and half on the road. Next year, I already have some scheduled for The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Chicago, Greece, New York City, and Naples, Florida. I love being able to scout out a new location for a photo shoot. It is so much fun for me when the couple is open to new places and ideas for photos. I absolutely love what I do. 

Featured in the June 1, 2024 issue of The Independent.
Photo credit: Bailey Pianalto Photography
By Anne Potter Russ

Anne Potter Russ

Anne is thrilled to be working with The Independent again, and even happier to be with some great people. Having served as editor from 2005 to 2009, it is a pleasure to be able to connect with the readers of this timeless magazine. Anne and her husband, Norbert, live in south Leawood, and have two grown kids, Diana and Nick, as well as two rambunctious dogs.



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