Every wedding is unique, which is one of the reasons I love them so much! From indoor to outdoor ceremonies, dates during the summer or winter, and bridal parties of a single bridesmaid and groomsman to those with ten of the couple's best friends standing up on either side, the one thing that is consistent between all wedding days is the need for a schedule or timeline. As a wedding photographer, I often lend my experience to the creation of these schedules, so I've put together a list of five of the most common questions that come my way:
How much time should I budget for photos if my fiance and I are planning to do a first look beforehand?
The first look provides the opportunity for a quiet moment with your fiance before the wonderful craziness of your wedding day begins! You may not realize it beforehand, but you are actually rarely alone on your wedding day - you'll be nearly constantly surrounded by your bridal party, parents, and guests that want to wish you well - and if you're a bride with a gorgeous ball gown, sometimes using the restroom still requires a helpful friend to be by your side! When my couples opt for a first look, I like to plan that we'll go right into portraits afterward, followed by full bridal party photos. We can usually knock most of these out before the ceremony begins, providing more time for you to kick back during cocktail hour! I typically budget 45 minutes for portraits and 30-45 minutes for the bridal party. Family shots usually take around a half hour - see question #4 below for more information on when to best fit them in!
How much time should I budget for photos if we do not want to do a first look and prefer to wait until the ceremony to see each other?
There is always a little spark of magic that I feel incredibly lucky to witness when my couples choose to see each other for the first time when walking down the aisle! In those instances, I focus my pre-ceremony photos mainly on each of you with your respective bridal party members - separately - since we won't bring the full group together until after the ceremony is over. My personal preference is to wrap up family and bridal party photos before going into your portraits so that you don't have a large audience when we want to capture those special moments featuring just the two of you! This timeline layout usually means a little less time spent at cocktail hour, but is still a very popular choice! In these cases, I usually plan 30 minutes for each of you with your squads respectively prior to the ceremony (with the plan to always have you hidden at least a half hour before the show begins!), with an additional 30 minutes for the full bridal party and 45 for your portraits afterward.
Do you have any recommendations on how I can make sure my family members are where they need to be when we take family pictures?
Yes! It can be incredibly helpful to have one member of each extended family appointed as a runner to find any stragglers who may not remember where they need to be and at what time! I can call out someone's name from my photo list but since I likely don't know what Aunt Suzy looks like, it will be much more difficult for me to pick her out of a crowd - identifying someone that can pull her away from a conversation with your neighbor Grace that she hasn't seen since she was her babysitter ten years ago can go a long way - and as soon as she's done I'll let her know and she can go right back to catching up with anyone she'd like!
If you're feeling particularly organized, I've worked with couples that have had a lot of success after adding a note to their family members' invitations requesting that they stay present following the ceremony to be part of the group pictures.
We want to make the most of cocktail hour with our guests; should we plan to do family photos before the ceremony begins?
I recommend planning family pictures prior to the ceremony if you decide to do a first look AND you feel you can count on all your desired family members to arrive earlier than the ceremony time listed on your invitation. You can make your wedding day anything you want it to be, so feel free to completely ignore my recommendation and proceed in any way you see fit; that is simply how I have seen it work the best! We can always grab a few family shots ahead of time as they are available - for example, if you want a picture of just you with your siblings - but if you'd like to arrange your full family but have not yet seen your fiance, we'll likely end up using a little more time later on recreating the same photo while adding your new spouse in as well.
What happens if we're running late during the day and can't follow the exact times on the schedule?
I always try to build a little extra time into the schedule to proactively combat the inevitable moment we realize that the best man doesn’t have any socks to wear or the flower girl’s parents get lost on their way to the venue. Even so, it’s always a good idea to talk to your photographer about which photos are the most important to you so they can make sure to come back to them later in the day if there wasn’t enough time to capture them when originally planned. We will always do our best to catch each special moment throughout the day, but it may not always be 100% feasible; in those cases it’s helpful to know which ones will mean the most to you when you’re looking at your images years down the road!
A few other things to consider are potential travel time if your ceremony and reception are not located in the same place (or if you’d like to travel to a park, brewery, winery, etc. for some of the portraits), whether or not there will be a receiving line, the time toasts will ideally occur during dinner, and when you plan to show off your best moves during the first dance! If you have any questions or are one of my clients and would like assistance putting together your own wedding day timeline, please shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org!