i'm not here to tell you that wedding planning isn't stressful.
But Hopefully I can help out a bit.
The information listed below is what I suggest from a photography-perspective, but remember that at the end of the day this is YOUR wedding. I’ll give advice and make suggestions, but I’m not here to rule the day. I want your wedding to be about you having the best time possible celebrating your love. I’ll be sure to take plenty of photos along the way.
The schedule I’ve suggested is designed to give ample time for you to make your way through the day with as little stress as possible. I’d much rather design a schedule that gives us time to spare than to have you feeling stressed or rushed. Wedding days are a whirlwind already, but planning ahead helps to make sure things run as smoothly as possible.
Ideal Time Allotment: 2-2.5 hours
Ideal Time of the Day: Mid-morning/early afternoon (Depending on Ceremony Time)
Ideal Location: Bridal Suite/Hotel/Home
Having plenty of time for preparation shots is a great way to ease into the day. The mix of emotions found in these moments are some of my favorite to capture, and they’ll often turn into some of the best candids from the day. Depending on the logistics of your specific wedding, I’ll either be bouncing in between the bride and groom as you both get ready, or I’ll coordinate with a second photographer to ensure that both groups are photographed. If you will not be doing a first look before the ceremony I highly recommend building in a bit of extra time during prep to photograph the separate bridal parties. This way we will have one less thing to achieve during cocktail hour.
Ideal Time Allotment: 1.5-2 hours
Ideal Time of Day: Just before the ceremony, past noon
Ideal Location: Secluded area near to the wedding venue
Let me preface this by reiterating that your wedding schedule is up to YOU. You’ve been dreaming about this day for years, so please don’t feel pressure to bend your vision around my ideas. I’ll be just as happy to photograph your wedding with or without a first look – I promise.
That being said…
Put simply, a first look is an opportunity for you and your spouse to see each other before your ceremony. It also lets us get a lot of the formal photos out of the way early in the day, and is a great chance to share a quiet moment together before you walk down the aisle.
Top 3 Reasons Why You SHOULD Do a First Look
Experience tells me that most couples find themselves very nervous just before the ceremony. Having a moment alone with each other before the beautiful chaos of the day ensues can be a perfect way to start the day. This is your best friend, and there’s something special about getting to see each other before you embark on the biggest adventure of your lives.
Speaking from a photography perspective, a first look is a great way to front-load your photos, which will later give you more time to relax and be present with your guests during what otherwise will likely be a busy cocktail hour. A first look will instantly give us two opportunities to take your portraits at a much more leisurely pace. It will also let us take photos in different scenes and lighting conditions than we would otherwise be able to achieve with just one time for portraits. This is also a great time to take care of some bridal party shots and family photos if time allows.
Seeing your spouse before your ceremony will not take away from the moment you see each other down the aisle. Don't get me wrong - I’ve seen some AMAZING down-the-aisle moments from couples who opted out from doing a first look. At times these moments were so sweet and so organic that I even thought maybe I should stop pitching the idea of a first look. At the same time though, there’s something so inescapably powerful about the “here comes the bride” moment that the feeling cannot be lost, regardless of whether a couple has seen each other earlier in the day. Sharing a private moment before the ceremony is much different than the “game time” moment you’ll have down the aisle. Both are precious, and both are irreplaceable. Here are a few shots from couples who chose to have a first look before their ceremony. Still looks plenty special to me ;)
Photographers are obsessed with light – it’s arguably all we think about at times. That’s probably not the case for you – but here are some helpful notes to think about as you plan the day.
Time of day (and thus the position of the sun) will have an enormous impact on the look of your photos. Mid-day sunlight looks vastly different than just before sunset, and sunset looks vastly different than dusk. If you’ve fallen in love with some of the golden hour photos that you’ve pinned online, then I’d strongly recommend that you plan some time for portraits around sunset. If you have a fall or winter wedding, consider a first look and/or earlier ceremony time to allow for maximum use of daylight. If your schedule won’t allow for golden hour photos, consider stepping out of your reception during dinner for a quick 15-minute sunset shoot. These opportunities can be nice break before dancing gets going, and they’ve often produced some of the most stunning images I’ve ever taken.
If you are getting married outside, talk with your venue about where the sun will be located during your ceremony. There’s nothing worse than squinting through your vows! Trees and other natural canopies can be great ways to control the light that will be falling on you and your bridal party during the ceremony.
Ideal Time Allotment: 20-30 minutes (3-4 minutes per group combination)
Ideal Time of the Day: Just After the Ceremony – central location
Ideal Location: Predetermined location in close proximity to the ceremony site
Family photos and the time they take to achieve are all about your priorities as a couple. Sure, these likely won't be the most creative shots in the world, but if photos with your family is at the top of your priority list then by all means – plan for that! Experience tells me that it’s often best to plan for as few combinations of photos that will still cover everyone that you’d like photographed. Be sure to provide a list of all the family photos that you’d like taken so that I can be sure that we get all the combinations that you’d like! Family photos (especially if they involve extended family members) are usually taken just after the ceremony – so it can be particularly helpful if the officiant reminds the family to meet at a pre-determined location for photos before uncle Bob runs off to the open bar.
Ideal Time Allotment: 60-90 minutes (Depending on Remaining Photos)
Ideal Time of the day: Afternoon/Evening, After the Ceremony
Ideal Location: Scenic and Private Area Away from Guests
The schedule of your cocktail hour will largely be determined by how much photography we’ve already taken care of before your ceremony. If you’ve chosen not to do a first look, the cocktail will be our prime opportunity for your portraits, bridal party shots, and family photos. I suggest photographing family first, bridal party second, and your portraits third. It’s always easier to push the clock a little bit if it’s just the three of us. I’ll be sure to get you to the reception as soon as possible though! If you have had a first look, I’d certainly still recommend using this time to take some more portraits (perhaps in a different location and time of day). Any remaining time can be spent sipping cocktails with your guests and eating those fancy finger foods you picked out ;)
Ideal Time Allotment: 2-4 hours (Depending on your schedule)
Ideal Time of the Day: Afternoon/Evening, After Ceremony
Ideal Location: Venue, Tent, Backyard, Mountaintop?
There are a million different ways to do your wedding reception. Some are in ballrooms, others are in backyards. Some have toasts and dancing, others are a bonfire on the beach. Whatever you choose for your own reception will be perfect -- just make sure that it feels like you. It’s rare to have a chance to hang out with all of your favorite people all at once – so live it up!
Wedding receptions are full of fantastic moments that are all worth preserving. Grandma might be doing her thang on the dance floor, your best friend might be giving a speech through laughs and tears, and your baby cousin might be trying to sneak a drink at the bar. If there are particular moments in the reception that you know you want a photo of (first dances, toasts, etc.) – just be sure to provide a schedule of the night so that I can make sure I’m ready and in position.
Ideal Time Allotment: 10-15 minutes
Ideal Time of Day: Sunset/Twilight
Ideal Location: Somewhere Awesome that I’ll have picked out
Receptions often happen during the best light of the day. When possible, I like to plan an extra 10-15 minutes to borrow my couples from their reception when nobody is noticing. I’ll often step out during dinner to find an awesome location where the light is just right. This gives me a chance to plan a few shots and get creative. I’ve found that these are often the best photos from the day. By this point you’ll have forgotten all the nerves from earlier in the day, and these photos can just be all about having fun as you get ready to dance the night away.
Phew! There you have it. There’s my take on how to prepare well for your wedding photos. In the midst of all this planning, remember that at the end of day, your wedding is about celebrating your love. Your love is more important than your décor. Your love is more important than rain or shine. Your love is more important than a sunset. And your love is more important than my photos. I know this is stressful, but I can’t wait to celebrate with you!