Your wedding day schedule plays a big role in guiding you and your guests from one space and activity to the next. It should reflect the pacing you imagine for yourself and the type of experience you want for your guests. I've seen very relaxed and free-flowing schedules that only had a few important times on it like: "Ceremony, Couple announced into reception, Grand exit".
On the other hand, I've seen wedding day schedules packed full of activities marked in ten-minute increments. There's no right or wrong for a wedding day schedule, however, it's important that we make sure the photography schedule works well within the framework of your overall wedding day schedule.
What we'll be discussing in this article is specifically the photo portion of your schedule.
Two Months Out
Many of our couples like to have this information as soon as possible in their planning process. Over the years, I've found having a general conversation to cover this topic two months before your wedding day is ideal. Any sooner and the schedule of all the day's activities may not be firmed up enough to make our discussion productive. Much later and we run the risk of a schedule packed full of other activities that leave out some great photo opportunities. I mention this is a general conversation because even at two months from the wedding, most things aside from the ceremony time and when dinner is served are still pretty flexible.
The purpose of this article is to give you an idea of what tends to work well not only to get the most opportunities for great photographs but also how we structure the day so the majority of your time is spent enjoying your friends and family. Not feeling like you stood around for photos.
This photo schedule is what we've seen work well in the past and because your wedding and schedule are unique, we will absolutely be customizing this to fit your needs. Also, if you have a planner, this is a great time to get them involved in the conversation.
A Caveat to Consider
You may have heard or read that it's a great idea for the couple, their families, and the entire wedding party to get together and get ALL of the formal portrait images completed before the ceremony. In our experience, when we bring a large group together before the ceremony it can feel rather chaotic because a lot of folks are standing around waiting for another group of people to be photographed. We try to avoid that scenario if at all possible.
What we prefer to do is to photograph as much as we can before the ceremony but WITHOUT the couple getting together. (not just yet anyway) This scenario allows us to visit each different group (bridesmaids, groomsmen) individually, spend ten to fifteen minutes with each, then let them go back to enjoying their day without ever waiting around to have their photos taken. Once those small groups are done, then we can do the first look (if you choose, no pressure) and after that, the full wedding party.
Below is a general guide to how we like to work, along with explanations and lots of photos.
2 hours (sometimes a little more) before the ceremony
We like to arrive at least 2 hours before the ceremony to see the bride getting final touches of makeup and hair done. If you choose to have a second photographer, they would stay with the ladies the entire time, while the lead photographer visits the groomsmen. The images just above this text are an example of the photos we create during this time.
At this point, your lead photographer (the one who creates all of the portraits) is either with the guys wherever they are getting ready or at the ceremony location awaiting the men's arrival. Once the guys arrive and have flowers pinned on their jackets, we go straight into portraits with the groom, groomsmen, and any available immediate family of the groom. (parents, siblings, but not grandparents) This takes ten to fifteen minutes or so depending on the number of groomsmen.
We try to get the men photographed before the ladies because often groomsmen need to be available to usher or perform other duties so they need to be freed up first. This has the added benefit of giving the ladies more getting ready time.
Once portraits with the guys are complete, your lead photographer will check with the ladies and take them to a great location for portraits. This is a good time to have close family members on standby. (immediate family) We will do extended family after the ceremony, so no need to get the grandparents there early unless they happen to be onsite already.
The images below show a small sample of what we create during this time.
The First Look (totally optional)
First looks have become popular in recent years and each couple I work with has a different opinion. As with so many things related to your wedding, there is no right or wrong answer. If you feel like you want to see each other and work those nervous jitters out together before the ceremony, then great! If you'd rather enjoy a big reveal at the end of the aisle then that's great too. We'll never try to pressure you into either.
However, if you choose to do a first look, this block of time just after your other portraits and right before the ceremony is when we will make it happen.
We like to have photography wrapped up at least 30 min prior to your ceremony. That gives you time to relax and gets you away from the crowd of guests that tends to form at that time.
There's not much to say about the ceremony regarding the photo schedule. That time has been set in stone for months and we are definitely along for the ride in that situation!
**If you are still in the early stages of planning and need some input on the best time of day for your ceremony, our suggestion is to have it end around two hours before sunset and work backward from there. Of course, your ceremony time might be dictated by your church or venue, but it is always nice to take advantage of the daylight with both of you and your wedding party. This is especially true in late fall as the days get shorter after the time change.**
Immediately after the ceremony, we photograph both of you together with your immediate and extended families. It works best, to begin by assembling the largest groups first and peel people away until only your immediate family is left. This process can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the number of people involved, the number of configurations we are asked to do, and the availability of the necessary people.
Once your family formals are complete, we work with you and your wedding party, then finally just the two of you for at least 10 to 15 minutes. If possible, we'll go to a slightly different location. For example, if formals were inside at an altar, we would head outdoors with your wedding party.
*We love to go to another location if that works with your schedule. If you have a small wedding party of eight or fewer then we can bring them along, if you have more, then it's often best to just work with the two of you. For example, if the reception is a different location than the ceremony, it's great to take advantage of the opportunities there.
*The general rule is, the more time we are given during this part of the day to photograph you, the more variety we can produce.
**If you chose to have a second photographer, this is the time they would be photographing your guests enjoying cocktail hour. If you decide you'd like to be a part of your cocktail hour, then we will make that happen too.
We are pretty much along for the ride at the reception. We stay close to you and the action and capture things as they happen.
The only schedule related info we need is to know what time you are being announced into the reception. That way we can get you back from your couple's session in plenty of time for you to freshen up and get a drink. This timing is typically based around when dinner or other food-related things are happening and is wildly different for every wedding.
Basically the more time we have with you, the more variety and creativity we can deliver. The idea though is to work with you in a way that involves several quick bursts of photo sessions throughout the day, rather than a few prolonged sessions. This keeps you looking fresh in front of our cameras. And, enjoying more time with your guests allows us to capture a ton of great candid images for you.
Hopefully, this gives you enough information to work with for now. I look forward to connecting either in person or virtually to discuss your details and answer questions.