What's possible with live wedding illustration?
How do live wedding guest portraits work on the day?
Most people have never seen a live wedding portrait artist before, so here’s what to expect!
I turn up between 30 and 45 minutes before things kick off, set up my easel and materials, and attach my pegs to the wall, to display the finished work. When the guests arrive, I’m ready to draw.
I use a list-based system where people add their names if they want a portrait. I’ll paint people in the order on the list, unless they’re not present when I finish the people before, in which case I skip to the next on the list. This eliminates the need for a long queue, although guests do have to check back now and then to see who has been crossed off, and how many to go, if they want to keep their slot.
As I finish each portrait, I peg it up on the wall, making a pop-up gallery which both creates an attraction and protects the paintings from accidental loss or damage, as guests won’t have to carry them around all day.
I won’t paint guests from life while they’re formally occupied eating / watching speeches etc. If you book me for a full day (and you don’t also want my live wedding day illustration), I will take photos of those waiting, and work from the photos until the next lull.
How do the live wedding illustrations work on the day?
I’ll have already consulted with you beforehand regarding what you want me to capture in my live wedding illustrations. I turn up about 90 minutes before things begin, set up my easel and materials, and also a more portable board-based drawing setup for sketching special moments from every angle.
As the ceremony and other parts of the wedding proceed, I draw and paint quickly in the moment, to portray whatever is happening in the most interesting and attractive way possible. I’ll add snippets of speech on the drawings if that’s something you want, and often fill in more details and colour when things get quiet.
As I finish each painting, I display it for guests to admire. By the end of the day there will be a lovely collection of artwork you’ll be able to take home and frame (or I can mount and frame it for you on the day – see below).
Can you do both live illustration and live portraits on the day?
Yes, I can do both live wedding portraits and illustration, but you’ll have to let me know what ratio you want of one to the other! Once I’m drawing guests, it’s very hard to stop unless there’s something else going on which takes them away.
So if you want mostly live illustration of the day’s events, I won’t set up for live portraits until towards the end.
If you want mostly guest portraits, with just a few paintings for yourselves, I’ll work on live illustrations during the ceremony, wedding breakfast, speeches etc. As a matter of etiquette, I will never draw posed portraits of guests while they are formally occupied eg eating or listening to speeches (but I may include them in crowd scenes!).
Please see my rates & booking page for more details on both services.
Will you be able to draw everyone?
Unless it’s a fairly small wedding (under 50 people), I probably won’t be able to draw literally everyone, as each portrait takes 7-10 minutes, and obviously longer for couples and groups. Even if there was time, not everybody wants to pose – some might not want a portrait at all!
It’s up to you how you want me to choose who gets drawn – I usually use a list, and anybody who either queues or waits nearby gets drawn in the order they put themselves down on the list. Alternatively you can choose 6-7 people per booked hour and make your own list, or even have a lucky dip!
But how do I make sure you draw my closest friends & family?
It’s always a bit hectic on the day, and sometimes the most important people amongst your family and friends are the ones who also won’t have the time to pose for me.
This is why I offer a bundle discount on special custom portraits of your nearest and dearest people, either painted from photos taken on the day, or painted from photos before the wedding, and gifted to them on the day. Please contact me for a quote.
Alternatively, send me a list of names to create bespoke ‘queue jump’ tokens for, meaning those people will be prioritised and painted before your other guests.
Can you draw guests from photos so they don't have to pose?
I *can*, and I do during the wedding breakfast & speeches if you book me for guest portraits for the full day. I snap whoever joins the queue towards the end of the post-ceremony lull and paint them during the downtime.
While guests are mingling, though, it’s less fun for all concerned if I’m just behind my easel, drawing from my a screen. Anyone who poses live for me always takes priority. It works much better when I am able to get a feel for the person standing in front of me, sense how they want to be portrayed, and capture more of their personality. I’m not a machine, and it’s much more entertaining for the guests to have some banter with me while I’m drawing them. They’re always more delighted by their painting when they’ve invested the time to wait and pose for me.
For my all day portrait bookings, I usually use the wedding breakfast time as a chance to paint people from photos who are too busy with wedding duties to pose (the couple and groups of bridesmaids / groomsmen) and also families with young kids who find it harder to stay in one place!
Will my guests have to stand still for very long?
Each guest will only have to stand for 5-10 minutes, and I’m comfortable working with moving, talking people. Nobody needs to seriously and silently pose as though they’re having a formal portrait done! I always let guests know that it’s fine to relax, move and chat while I paint them. Guests who can’t stand for long are welcome to sit, of course.
Can we get a copy of all the guest portraits?
The guests take their portraits home on the day, but I usually manage to shoot a well lit photo of each painting just after doing it. I’m happy to share copies of these shots with you after the wedding.
What kind of materials do you use? Can you do other styles?
My full length portraits are A4 sized paper, and my slightly quicker head and shoulders portraits are A5. I use 350gsm watercolour paper, which means it’s thick, with a slight grain, and it won’t warp. It’s acid free so it won’t degrade or discolour through the years.
My paints are top quality artists watercolours by Daniel Smith, who make rich, strong pigments that last longer than cheap watercolours, which often fade after a few months.
I’m proficient in other artistic styles and materials if you want something in particular, eg just pencil portraits, or pastels on coloured paper. Please ask if you have something in mind, and I’m happy to show you a sample.
I'm having a big wedding. Can you bring another artist so more people get painted?
I can bring another artist on board – I can access a brilliant pool of talent, from full time live illustrators, to artists who join me on jobs now and then. You can rely on me to team up with someone great who fits your budget, and between us, we’ll send more guests home with a painting!
What will you need from me?
Do I need to provide tables / chairs / electricity?
I bring a standing easel setup with me, so I don’t need a table or chair for myself. I use small portable LED lights to light my paper and materials, so I won’t need access to electricity.
I normally ask guests to stand, as I draw full length fashion portraits, but if you have guests who may not be able to stand for 5-10 minutes, please have a chair available.
What kind of space do I need to provide for you to work in?
I only need about 3-4 square metres – enough for me, my easel and a guest or two! Ideally I’ll have a couple of square metres of wall space too, to display the finished artwork. I’m happy working outdoors in spring and summer (except in rain!)
All I ask is that if you want guest portraits, then the space you put me in *must* be adequately lit – if I can’t see people’s faces properly, then the quality and speed of the artwork suffers. Bear this in mind if you’re considering a booking that will run on into the evening, or if you have a marquee which might have limited lights.
If you think the space might be too dark, then I will need access to electricity, and for a small supplementary fee, I’ll bring along suitable lighting.
Framing, customisation and more detailed illustration
Can you frame the live illustrations for us on the day?
For live illustrations of your wedding day, framing is possible – I’ll do it as I go along, and create an instant pop-up gallery wall of the framed paintings. I can even bring a range of mounts in bespoke colours to match your wedding theme. Hand lettering on the mounts is also available – the sky’s the limit! Please ask for a quote.
I can either source suitable frames and add this to my fee, or you can choose and bring your own frames, and I’ll create the artwork to match the size and number of frames.
If framing my wedding guest portrait illustrations on the day is important to you, I can bring picture mounts with me, which most people are happy with as it looks smart but saves weight and doesn’t risk breakage. Please request a quote if this is something you require.
If full framing (in frames) of all guest portraits on the day is essential, my quote will need to include both the frames and an assistant I’ll bring on the day.
Can you create a compilation print from the live illustrations?
If you’d prefer all the live illustrations of the day combined into one large picture instead of several smaller ones, this is possible! In this situation, I’d take them home to scan them, possibly draw a few more embellishments and extras from photos, and design a stunning compilation print for you to frame. Please ask for a quote.
Do you do illustrated wedding sign-in boards / welcome signs / table plans etc?
I would be delighted to also illustrate your sign-in board, welcome sign, table plan and anything else you can think of, in a bespoke style and theme – with or without a custom wedding portrait illustration of the happy couple!
I am fairly skilled in hand-lettering, so if you’d also like table setting name cards written in calligraphy, or any other lettering for signs before the big day, please contact me for a quote.
Prices and booking
How does the booking process work?
- You contact me with your date, location and requirements, and I reply with a quote. The prices on my site are guidelines and may be adjusted according to travel requirements, timing etc.
- If you’re happy with the quote, I send over a contract.
- You sign the contract (digitally) and send me a 20% deposit by Paypal or bank transfer, which secures the booking.
- I will then contact you nearer the wedding date to check in with you, and get more details about who and what you want my artwork to focus on, on the big day.
- You pay me the remaining balance the week before the wedding.
- I arrive 30-45 mins before my booking begins, to get set up.
How long should we book you for?
It really depends what you want from me but I usually recommend a full day booking. Here’s why:
Do you just want portraits for your guests to take home?
There’s two main ‘mingling’ lulls during most weddings, where having a live portrait artist is ideal entertainment for guests.
- The post-ceremony lull, where formal photos are taken of the bridal parties and families, and guests are left to their own devices
- The longer lull after the wedding breakfast and speeches, before the dancing begins in earnest.
The timing of these lulls is obviously up to you, but my minimum booking is usually 3 hours (except in London). The first 90 minute lull might be enough to paint about 6 couples. That’s not a very big dent in the size of most wedding parties, and people *really* love getting portraits, so they get quite sad if I pack up and leave after 90 minutes!
It always makes more sense to book me for both lulls – a ‘full day’ portrait booking is 8 hours. I use the wedding breakfast and speeches time to draw more guests from photos. This way, I am able to draw and display paintings of as many guests as possible, and leave far fewer people disappointed.
Do you also want some live illustration artwork for yourselves, too?
Why should guests get all the goodies? A lot of couples want both guest portraits but also live illustration of the ceremony, and a few paintings of details from the wedding, to keep for themselves. The only way to get a decent amount of both is to book me for a full day – the mixed full day package is 9 hours (beginning an hour before the ceremony) but extra hours are available. The longer you book, the better, depending on how much artwork you want to keep and what proportion of your guests you’d like painted.
I do the guest portraits during the lulls, while guests are mingling. During the wedding breakfast, I’ll add more colour and detail to your wedding ceremony illustration, and I can also paint the cake, flowers and anything else you want me to, plus capture all the speech-givers on the same page! Once the speeches are over, I’ll go back to doing guest portraits, usually until the first dance.
Do you only want live illustrations of your wedding day for you to keep?
If you don’t want guest portraits, I’ll be able to focus on creating the most beautiful bespoke live illustrations of your wedding that I can. With the full day ‘live illustration’ booking of 10 hours, I can also arrive well before the ceremony and discreetly capture everything in sketches, from bridal hair and makeup, to scenes of friends and family outside the church, to the actual moment where you say ‘I do’.
After this, I’ll move on to your reception venue, paint the background for the ceremony, before guests arrive to be drawn into the next few pictures. I will work through the wedding breakfast sketching the scene and speech-givers, and paint the cake ready to add the bride and groom cutting it!
How far will you travel for a booking and what does it cost?
I love travelling and I’ll go literally anywhere if my expenses are covered (which would normally include one or two nights accommodation as well as flights/trains). I’ve previously illustrated destination weddings as far as Mumbai, Lake Como and Venice.
Travel is included within an hour of London, but for weddings around the UK, I factor a rough price of 45p per mile into my quote. Full day bookings more than 2 hours away from London may also involve accommodation costs for one or two nights, depending on wedding timings.
Why do you require 2 nights accommodation?
Do you do discounts?
I may offer small discounts for bookings in South or East London, for off-peak times and dates.
My time is extremely competitively priced for a skilled live illustrator but I recognise it may not be within everyone’s budgets. I’m passionate about helping give people lasting memories of their wedding day and growing the popularity of live wedding illustration, so I’m happy to point you towards cheaper amateur artists if you ask.
I'm worried about having paint and ink in my fancy venue!
I have £5 million public liability insurance, so we’re both fully protected if someone trips over my easel and spills ink onto a carpet!
I can also optionally bring a large mat to work on, for carpeted venues or venues which are too historic to take any risks.