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5 Tips for Editing Cinematic Wedding Highlight Videos

Michael Maher

Editing wedding videos can easily become overwhelming. That’s why preparation and storytelling are key to a successful edit.

When editing wedding projects, you’re typically working on two projects at once. A highlight reel that will go online, and a full-length film for the couple to enjoy. Full-length films are pretty standard fare. You showcase the day as it happened. It’s the highlight reel that has revolutionized the industry over the past 10 years. Being able to share your wedding video online for all of your friends and family to see has become the most requested item. In fact, there are couples who only want the highlight reel. Here are five ways to make your highlight reels stand out.

1. Plan Out Transitions

Planning your transitions ahead of time will really help you out in the editing bay. When shooting B-roll, don’t be afraid to move the camera off of your subject.  Consider panning or sliding out of one shot and into another. When you feel like you have an idea for two shots to go together, pan off of your subject. Move to your next shot, pan in the same direction and stop. Then you can apply a cross dissolve to create a seamless look.

Here’s an example from one of my own wedding videos. I used a Kessler Stealth slider to achieve this look. I set up the slider on a tripod behind a makeup cabinet. I start at the left end of the slider and focus on the bridesmaid. Then I would slide to the right, which allowed the makeup cabinet to come into frame. Then I moved to the mother of the bride on the other side of the salon, and set up behind another cabinet. I set up the slider and placed the camera all the way on the right end, which was the stopping point. Set focus, then move the slider back to the starting point on the left end. Finally slide to the right again.  Throw in a quick dissolve between the shots in post, and that’s it.


Another trick I frequently use is moving the camera into black. If you have a second shooter, have them walk right in front of the camera on cue. Then you can use that movement to fade to black, rather than a typical stationary fade. If you don’t have a second shooter, then use a wedding guest. You can also use doorways, tables, or just about any object lying around. The darker and closer you get to an object, the easier the fade.


You can also use a cross dissolve as well. Whichever gives you the best look.


If you have a rough edit that just doesn’t look right, try adding a layered effect. You can use light leaks to help transition from one scene to another. Be sure not to overuse this technique. It can easily start to distract the audience if you use it on every cut. It’s really easy to shoot light leaks on your own, or you can even download free light leaks. It’s best to use these during the reception, especially if the DJs setup provides a lot of cool lights to work with.


There are also your standard cuts. Don’t be afraid of hard cuts, you can make them look great. You can use plenty of cross cuts while the bride is having her makeup done and the groomsmen are getting dressed. J-cuts and L-cuts are perfect to use during the ceremony.


 2. Order Clips in the Way That Tells The Best Story

Do you have to show everything in order? NO! In fact, I would recommend not doing that at all. You should weave clips together in the most engaging way possible. Save the order for the full-length film. One of the most frequent edits is starting a wedding highlight with a speech or the vows. Use this as a way to introduce us to the couple. Then you can show us everything else that happened during the day.

One of the masters of this technique is Joe Simon from The Delivery Men. Watch as he jumps throughout the wedding day while learning so much about the couple from the father of the bride. Notice how engaged you become in their love story.

3. Keep Highlight Reels Short and Tight

The highlight reel is what every bride and groom wants to share. The full-length film is something for them to enjoy together. Keep that in mind when editing highlight reels. Save the whole ceremony or speeches for the full version. Highlight reels are also your chance to showcase your best stuff, and hopefully book more weddings. Notice how tight the Joe Simon reel is… it comes in under ten minutes.

You can start editing a piece by pulling the best parts of the ceremony, or the best speech. Then grab all of the great shots from the morning of the wedding and all the sweet dance moves from the reception. You’ve already started the outline to the whole highlight video. Work in the standard cake cutting, vows, and a snippet from the first dance. You have 90% of the footage you need there already.  Don’t let your video go long enough for the audience to get bored. Remember, this is the best-of-the-best footage, and you should come in well under 10 minutes long.

4. Color Grade or Color Correct the Footage

Yulia D

Image from Yulia D

Weddings are typically very fast-paced. There will be times when you forget to reset your white balance or find footage from two different cameras that doesn’t match. This is where color correction and color grading will come into play. Sure, you can use the color correctors in your software, but it’s best to use a color grading program. If you don’t have one, try using DaVinci ResolveThey offer a Lite package that you can download and use for free. Here is a rundown of the Davinci Resolve Workflow.

5. Pick (and License!) the Right Music


Find the right music for every couple. You should get a sense for the type of music they like by paying attention to the DJ. Did they play a lot of pop music or country music? Search for songs that fit their wedding. The standard is two songs for a highlight reel. A slow and steady song for the intro and ceremony, then a fast paced dance hit for the reception footage.

If you are posting a highlight reel online for the world to see, you need to be licensing your music. Yes, I know this is a music site and I would love for you to buy from PremiumBeat, but you can go anywhere else to license your tracks. Here’s why this is important.

You have been hired to make an online highlight reel. If that video gets flagged or pulled for a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice, then you have failed at your job.

There is nothing worse than a bride sharing her wedding video, only to find out that none of her family and friends can view it. There are also plenty of stories of wedding videos with popular music going viral. When the music company looks to collect royalties, they aren’t going after the bride and groom. They are going after you. It does happen. I have heard plenty of stories from other videographers to prove it.

On top of all of this, you can also get sued by the bride and groom for failing to deliver the product they paid for. I can’t stress this enough. License your music! The benefit of PremiumBeat‘s royalty free music is its unlimited use. Pay once and you can use it over and over again.

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