Over the past 10 years, I have photographed hundreds of weddings. I have seen it all! I always share my past experiences with my new brides, and I have a list of suggestions that I share with my couples to create the best possible images on their wedding day. When I book a wedding, I always sketch out a sample time schedule of how the wedding day will unfold. At least 30 days before the wedding, I sit down to finalize a schedule with my couple. Since wedding season is right around the corner I thought this would be a great time to share some of these suggestions with you. In my experience, they help me get the best possible photographs and help the day run as smooth as possible.
Hire a Planner. You have heard that one before, but it is very important to have someone help organize your day. Weddings are very stressful and if you take the load of planning and coordinating the day you will exhaust yourself. If you are worried about budget most planners have several packages that you can choose from. As a photographer, I love when a planner is available for me to consult with the day of the wedding.
Engagement Session. Sometimes it doesn’t work out to have your engagement pictures with your wedding photographer due to distance or schedules, but if you can work with your wedding photographer prior to the day do it! All of my wedding collections include an engagement session as I want to work with my couples before the wedding. It is a great opportunity to see how couples interact together and if they are comfortable in front of the camera. After shooting together, I feel like I show up to the wedding as an old friend with a nice camera. My couple is far more relaxed and comfortable with me. Don’t forget you will also want some non-wedding images to hang on your wall!
Time is of the Essence A question that comes up time and time again is”how long does it take to get shots of the bride and groom and wedding party.” I have worked with all sorts of time limits, but I believe at least 30 minutes with the wedding party and 30 minutes with the bride and groom is adequate. I typically ask for two hours to make sure we aren’t rushed. If there is more time available, I would spend it with my couple. If you have an hour to work with choose one location as driving to other locations can be timely hauling a group of people.
Getting Ready. When scheduling a wedding day with my couples, I normally arrive when my bride is finishing up hair and make-up. Let’s face it; you aren’t going to like any pictures without hair and make-up! Showing up during final touches allows me to get some final shots of styling.
Dressing. I always suggest to my brides to get ready in a separate room from the bridal party. Things can get hectic with a room full of girls doing hair and make-up. Not to mention the clutter. You want your space to be clean and calm. Have your bridal party and family members completely ready to help you into your dress and add the final touches.
Florals & Details. Have your florist bring your bouquets/boutonnieres to the location where you will be getting ready. You will want all your details available to be photographed. Prior to the wedding, my couples and I create a list of special items that need to be photographed. My bride will organize a collection in a jewelry box or special area for me to have access to these items while she is finishing up hair and make-up. This ensures I get the photographs my couples want.
Receiving Line. This is the largest underestimated event of the evening. If you have 200+ guests you are looking at an hour or more for them to exit. This can cut into your time schedule and leave less time for you to get photos of you and your groom. Exiting by rows is a speedier approach. My personal suggestion is to have a cocktail hour. This allows you to mingle with your guests in a causal atmosphere. Neither you nor your guests will feel rushed to chat as there isn’t a formal line.
Family Formals. This is probably one of the most challenging events of a wedding day if it isn’t organized. Sometimes family members wander off before pictures as they are wrapped up in the excitement of the day. Here’s the best way I have found to keep family members at the ceremony. First, everyone who is to be involved in these important photos should be notified before that day. Send out a mass email or call individuals, but make sure they sit in the first couple of reserved rows. If you dismiss by rows have them remain seated. If you opt for a cocktail hour have the recessional include all your family members walking out after you to a specified location until your guests leave. Appoint a family member to make sure everyone stays together. There isn’t a norm for including just immediate family or extended family in your photos. I have seen it done both ways many times. Decide what is important to you, if you do choose to include large groups make sure you allow enough time.
Toasts. I highly suggest to my couples to do their toasts when they make their grand entrance into the reception or right before dinner. Once your guests have dinner and a few drinks, it is hard to get their attention again. They are in full party mode! Toasting before dinner is a better flow for your reception.
Video. Video is one of the largest regrets for a couple after the wedding. We are SO happy we have our wedding day on video! It isn’t something you will look at like your wedding photos hanging on your wall, but video helps you relive the day over and over. If you have a videographer or a cinematographer at the wedding, make sure you communicate prior to the wedding day with your photographer and vice versa. We each have a goal which is to produce the best quality work; we need to be on the same schedules and allow extra time for both.