My Must-Haves for Styling Flat Lay Wedding Photos
My wedding flat lay styling kit consists of a tower of several Really Useful Boxes (with organisers) in which I categorised my styling items by color. I have a Really Useful Box with neutral shades, pink and purples, green and blues and a box with essentials that help while styling and don't have color at all (or they aren't meant to be seen in the photos). My wedding flat lay styling kit contains the following items:
- Backgrounds and styling surfaces for flat lay styling
- Ring boxes for wedding rings
- Ribbons for flat lay styling
- Styling dishes
- Trays, silverware and other antiques and keepsakes
- Wax Seals and Vintage stamps
- Risers for flatlay styling, glue dots, dental wax, tiny brush and other tools for styling flat lays
In spite of all this stuff, wedding flat lays are actually about wedding details. Items that I might include in a wedding details flatlay are:
- Stationery (like invites, save the dates, vow books, escort cards, programs, menu's, paper fans)
- Other jewellery (like cufflinks, earrings, headpiece, necklace, watch and bracelets)
- Heirlooms (for example the love letters of a bride's grandparents because their wedding in 1945 was the reason the bride choose this particular church in Switzerland to elope in)
- Welcome bags
Styling surfaces for Flatlay Styling
Different kinds of flat lay styling surfaces
Flatlay styling surfaces come in many shapes and forms. There are styling boards (usually a wooden board with paint or fabric on it), rollable mats and foldable mats (these usually work in the same way as reflection screens work). But when I started out (10 years ago) styling surfaces weren't things you could purchase (flat lays for wedding details weren't even a "thing" tbh). So I tended to just look for a nice surface already present at the wedding. I'd look for pretty floors, a desk, a velvet couch, pretty bedding, a rug, a table and if all else failed the bride's dress or veil.
The pros and the cons of a surface that's already at the wedding
A lot of the options mentioned above aren't ideal for a couple of reasons. Firstly, some of them can't be moved and therefore you can't create the flatlays in the best available light. And secondly some editors of wedding blogs and magazines have rules about certain backgrounds in detail shots. Dark wooden floors are often off the table because they make the entire flat-lay darker, while lighter woods and marble are considered cheap or "dirty" options by some editors. And if I'm being honest, veils do tend to make for cheesy and outdated shots if you're not super careful. A beautiful tiled table or vintage map of the location can potentially be a hit though, adding in an element like that, which is cohesive with the ambience of the wedding, can be a great background option.
Destination Wedding Styling Surfaces
Styling boards are great, they are sturdy and if you store them nicely and away from dust they are very durable. However, they are too big to bring in your suitcase to destination weddings. So for me they weren't an option for most weddings (unless I was driving to a wedding in France, Belgium, Austria or Switzerland, they wouldn't fit into my luggage).
Then the styling mats made their appearance. First there was the foldable kind by a company called The Styling Mat, and they folded like a reflector screen would (you know the awkwardly collapsable screens that usually come in white, black, silver and gold and when you just bought one you needed to practice to get them into the little pouch again (thank god for YouTube tutorials!). They were the industry standard for a couple of years until they disappeared from the face of the 'gram in May 2020. From 2019 onwards I started to see rollable styling mats. They are perfect for destination weddings in my view. These are my favourite places for rollable styling surfaces:
- The Curated Trove: located in the UK, they sell a wide range of surfaces in plain colors, (handpainted) watercolours and patterns. You can use the code WITPHOTO10 for a 10% discount at check out.
- Locust Collection: located in the USA but if you're in Europe the quality of their products is worth the postage.
- Marry & Lilo: located in the EU, they sell handpainted as well as velvet mats.
Ring Boxes for a Wedding Flat Lay Styling Kit
If you're a wedding photographer you likely have seen a The Mrs. Box or two. These little velvet ring boxes are of gorgeous quality. At first they were only available in velvet fabrics in about every colour you can think of. But recently they launched a new collection of patterned fabrics and my favourite new addition for flat lays: the proposal box. This box only fits an engagement ring but the position that the ring is presented in makes it perfect for wedding flat lays.
Lots of other companies copied the original little ring boxes (although most of them are actually bigger than The Mrs. Boxes (which might seem great at first hand, but it does mean that the ring stands out less than when it is put a smaller box). Although I'm a sucker for these little velvet boxes, I personally love a pretty antique ring box too. These I find in places like Ebay and Etsy.
However, if you like weighing all of your velvet ring box options, here are a couple of different stores that sell (velvet) ring boxes:
- The Mrs. Box (USA)
- Amonié (Australia)
- Je Promis (UK)
- The Flatlay Design (France)
- Magnolias on Silk (Germany)
- Bark & Berry (Russia)
- Allen Gleur (USA)
- Styling Archives (USA)
- J'Amois (Ukraine)
- Wedding Deco (Netherlands)
Fabrics and Ribbons for Your Wedding Flat Lay Styling Kit
Much like flowers, ribbons tend to also add a bit of "life" into a flat lay. I prefer silk ribbons, preferably with as less frayed ends as possible. These are my favourite addresses to get ribbons for flat lay wedding photos:
- Trove Curated (UK) You can use the code WITPHOTO10 for a 10% discount at check out.
- Lancaster & Corniche (UK)
- Silk & Willow (US)
- La Lettre Kalligrafie (Netherlands)
- Seidenband (Germany)
I also love using styling fabrics to add a bit more texture to a flat lay. This might be a loose-weave linen, gauze silks or other flowy fabrics. I especially love sheer, see-through fabrics as they can really add an ethereal feel to flat lay photos.
Wedding Flat Lay Styling Kit: Styling Dishes
These small dishes are great to display rings, stamps, wax seals, jewellery and ring boxes on. They've also become the modern equivalent to the, fairly old fashioned, ring pillow. Besides adding a different shape, color or texture to your flat lay, it can also double as a way to uphold flower heads. If you're looking to buy porcelain or antique dishes you might want to use search terms like 'tea tip', '(soy) sauce bowl' or ring dish. If you'd prefer lightweight or modern options, have at any of the following shops:
- Trove Curated (UK) You can use the code WITPHOTO10 for a 10% discount at check out.
- Marbella Dish (Canada)
- Marry & Lilo (Europe)
- Styling Archives (USA)
- Locust Collection (USA)
Trays, Silverware and Other Antiques and Keepsakes
This is different for everyone and you'll figure out what works and doesn't work for your style in wedding flat lays. To give you some ideas, here are some of the items I have in my styling kit:
- Cameos that I collected when I was obsessed with them in my late teens.
- Small figurines, like an "evil eye" pendant that is perfect for Greek weddings. Miniature busts work great for weddings at castles in France, mansions in the US and historic estates in the UK.
- Vintage documents from Ebay or Etsy.
- Trays, silver bowls and broches from The Trove Curated (UK) You can use the code WITPHOTO10 for a 10% discount at check out.
- Antiques from Silk & Willow (USA)
- Antiques form Sainte Signora (USA)
Wax Seals and Vintage Stamps for Styling Wedding Stationery
Vintage stamps are a great way to add an extra detail or a pop of color, but also add a bit of contrast to a plain envelop. I got most of my stamps from marketplaces like Ebay and now have a small collection in many different colors. If you're just starting or building your collection of stamps to use for wedding stationery flat lays, The Curated Trove offers beautiful vintage stamp sets assorted by color (You can use the code WITPHOTO10 for a 10% discount at check out).
Just like stamps, wax seals can be a great little detail to add to a flatlay. These also work well grouped together or where they belong, on the back of an envelope. Tip: When you have a beautiful envelope liner (or are displaying an envelop in an open position because of compositional reasons) and have a hard time keeping the envelope flat, wax seals are often just heavy enough to keep the flap of the envelop into place.
Risers for Flatlay Styling, Glue Dots, Dental Wax, Tiny Brush and Other Tools for Styling Flat Lays
Here are some of the tools I have in my flat lay styling kit:
- Wooden styling blocks or cubes, these are a very affordable alternative for acrylic risers (although if you feel like you only need 1 riser per flat lay, you could always use your lans cap).
- Acrylic risers, I prefer these to wooden blocks (or using a lens cap) because they still let through light and therefore create less shadows and no color casts.
- Flower holders or penholders (in ikebana these are known as Kenzan). Alternatively you could cut a toilet rol into small rings and use those as flower holders. I love the wooden ones by Locust Collection, they come in 2 sizes and are super affordable.
- Tiny pointed paint brush, this is super convenient when wanting to reposition something small without touching other items. For example a crooked stamp or a tiny flower bud, a berry or a tiny leaf.
- Dental wax, glue dots or museum gel. Museum gel is hard to find in Europe (I'm guessing it's the best option if you're in the US though), but dental wax (which you may remember from a time when you had braces) or (cut up) glue dots are great for propping up rings when you're not using a ring box.
- Velvet brush aka baby brush. When using a velvet styling mat you might want to use a soft brush like this to be able to "stroke" the velvet fabrics in a particular direction without making "finger prints" in the velvet. It's also a great help if you want to brush away zand or dry dirt.
Items to Practice Your Flatlaying Skills With
You might want to practice your flat laying skills and in that case some costume jewellery (especially wedding rings), stationery and flowers might be handy. Fake rings can be found in any local jewellery store, on Amazon and probably in your own jewellery box as well. Stationery can be a bit harder, here are my 3 tips for getting some stationery to practice with:
- Save the invitations you receive from couples for their wedding.
- Buy samples from a stationer. LISTEN UP: Just because a stationer sells samples, doesn't mean they want you (a photographer who isn't going to buy 50 or 100 or 500 more of the sample) to buy them! Most stationers sell samples for potential clients, they are not meant for photographers wanting to practice their skills. Be sure to check with a stationer if they are ok with you buying the samples. You might even get lucky and they might throw in some left over pieces.
- Ask a stationer if they'd lend you a couple of items in return for photos. Set clear rules though, you don't want to dissappoint them if you take longer or send less photos than the stationer was expecting.
When it comes to flowers, your practice sessions can become expensive very fast. When I started practicing flat lays, I bought a number of fake flowers and removed the stems.
Would you like to learn more from my 10 years experience as a destination wedding photographer? Maybe you'd like to schedule a coaching call or attend 1 of my destination wedding workshops all over Europe.
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