Wedding days are all so different. Each one is unique and caters to each bride and groom. In my experience in photographing weddings, I have curated this guide to help you prepare and plan your wedding day. Each part of your wedding day deserves to be captured to its fullest.
I am here to help make the process of coordinating your day that much easier. My goal is for you to build trust in me, so come the wedding day, you are certain, and confident in my abilities as a photographer, but also as your number one go-to girl. Planning a wedding is stressful, but I want to make this process as stress-free as I can.
I have outlined every part of a typical wedding day, so you can paint a picture in your head of how the day will flow, and how much time will be spent on each special part.
+ HAIR AND MAKEUP
When I arrive, I start with bridal details. In my experience, it takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to photograph the bride’s details (dress, shoes, rings, jewelry, perfume, invitations, bouquet etc.) thoroughly and with plenty of variety. From there, I spend the remainder of the time taking candids of the bride and bridesmaids hanging out in their robes and getting final touches of hair and makeup.
BRIDE & GROOM
We allow 45 minutes for the bride to get on her dress for a few reasons. First, sometimes we show up and the bride has more details and photo requests than she originally included in her wedding day questionnaire, like photos of her and her bridesmaids popping champagne on the bed, for example, or a gift from the groom that she’d like special pictures of, or even a first look with her Dad that she didn’t know or decide she wanted until the morning of her wedding. If that happens, we’ve built 15 extra minutes of pad time into this section, so that extra requests won’t put us behind. Second, sometimes there’s a snag with the dress, or the bridesmaids all want to have their hair and makeup touched up one more time, or something else that sets back the timeline at the last minute.
During this time, your second photographer will be showing up and photographing your groom getting ready.
WALK TO FIRST LOOK
If we get the bride and groom dressed and out the door on time, we’ve found that it takes about fifteen minutes to stage the first look. Even if the first look spot is close to the getting ready room, we never want to underestimate how long it takes for a bride to walk in her heavy gown, long veil and high heel. Allotting fifteen minutes gives us five minutes for the couple to each get to the location, five minutes for the bride to get hidden and the groom to get in position and five minutes to explain to both of them what’s going to happen, what to do and kindly ask any family members who are creepin’ for a sneak peekin’ to respect the couple’s request for privacy.
Even though the actual first look moment only takes a few minutes, we like to give our couples 15 minutes for this so the bride and groom have a chance to see each other, embrace, talk for a bit, soak it all in, retouch makeup (if needed) and finish early — which gives us more portrait time!
I can’t emphasize this enough: if the bride and groom get to the first look on time, 99.% of the time the rest of the timeline stays on schedule. If they don’t, that’s where things get off track. The beginning of the day is where we, as the photographers, have the least control — because of all the surrounding people who can stop a bride or groom from getting out the door. Having built in extra time, we have better chances of staying on time.
BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS + INDIVIDUALS
I normally capture three things here: 10 minutes of bride and groom portraits in one location, 10 minutes of individual portraits (bride alone and groom alone) in another location (5 minutes each) and 10 minutes of bride and groom portraits again. That way, if for some reason something goes awry later in the day (like inclement weather) and you’re not able to do husband and wife sunset portraits, you’ve still gotten bride and groom portraits in two distinct locations and their individuals as well. So, even in the worst case scenario, you’ve got what you need for an album and blog post to feel complete, and they have great photos, even if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
BRIDE WITH BRIDESMAIDS
We always start with the girls because a) they’re the most excited, b) we want them with fresh hair and makeup and c) if we go a little longer with them, it’s easy to make up time with the guys later. We begin with individual photos of the bride and each of her bridesmaids. That takes about five minutes, depending on the size of the bridal party and if the bride has any special requests, like a photo of her and her sisters, as an example. From there, we still have ten minutes to get several distinct poses with the whole group, as well as supplementary detail shots of their bouquets. Most of the time, this section runs closer to 20 minutes long because getting variety with these pictures is often more important to the bride for her memories and wedding album (and our social media and blog!) than the guys, and the girls typically enjoy their time in front of the camera more, so we spend more time with them.
FULL BRIDAY PARTY
We do this in the middle so that the girls don’t have to wait around for the guys. Also, so the guys can bring chairs from the ceremony site if it’s a large bridal party. By the time we get the chairs setup and everyone organized, it’s been five minutes (at least). From there, we have five to ten minutes to get three different looks. I typically try to get three disctinct poses with the full bridal party (girls on one side, guys on the other, boy-girl-boy-girl, and a fun mixed one) and I'll ask them to do different things where they’re standing to give us more variety for your final gallery. If they’re a smaller group, we’re able to mix it up more in a shorter amount of time.
GROOM WITH GROOMSMEN
This runs just like the girls’ section. We do individuals first and then the whole group. Since the girls are less mobile than the guys (because high heels and soft grass are enemies), this gives sisters a 15-minute head start if the immediate family portraits are somewhere else on property (or there’s no first look and it’s time to leave for the ceremony.) I do my best to find a place for the immediate family photos that’s a) out of sight from arriving guests and b) in or near the same place as the bridal party photos. That way, the chairs are still there (if we need them), we’re easier to find for the arriving family members and the bridal party members who are part of the immediate family don’t have to go anywhere/ can help call, rally, and wrangle family members for us. Don’t be afraid to recruit helpers on the wedding day. It’s a beautiful thing!
IMMEDIATE FAMILY PHOTOS
We allocate 30 minutes for immediate family photos as close to the ceremony start time as possible, but with enough time so that the guests haven’t arrived yet. I will work with you before the wedding to create a printed list of all family members and groupings to help us run through family combinations quickly. Thirty minutes gives us enough time to get you two with each side of your immediate family and small breakouts, too, like the bride with her dad, the bride with her mom, the bride with her mom and dad, the parents together, etc. Any family shots beyond the immediate extended family photos (like aunts, uncles, etc.) typically takes additional time, so we’ll add 15 minutes to this section when those photos are requested, but we’ll always make sure to end 30 minutes before the ceremony start time to avoid guests seeing the you and/or family members getting antsy, as well as giving us time to shoot the ceremony setup.
BRIDE & GROOM HIDE, REST & RETOUCH + CEREMONY DECOR
This window is crucial. It gives you two time to hide away from your guests, relax and retouch before the ceremony, and it also gives us a shooting cushion if for some reason the timeline gets behind. If we’re at a detail-heavy wedding, I will actually shoot most of family photos by myself while your second photographer gets a head start on the details of the ceremony (and sometimes even reception) decor. If, for some reason, though, we’re both needed during family photos, to manage a large extended family group, for example, this time slot gives us a window of time before the guests arrive to get those detail shots untouched.
Tip: If you’re worried about not having enough time after the ceremony to sign the marriage license, get husband and wife sunset portraits, get reception detail photos and shots of guests at cocktail hour, you can always use this time as guests are arriving to stop them for a quick pic looking at the camera. Then you can add those photos into the cocktail hour gallery, even if you run out of time to cover it. Or, if your couple, planner and officiant are all up for it, you could always have the license signed in this time right before the ceremony to free up more golden hour time.
On average, we find that most ceremonies start five to ten minutes late and last about twenty minutes. If it starts on time and gets done early, that’s just a bonus for us because of all the photos we have to get during cocktail hour.
HUSBAND & WIFE SUNSET PORTRAITS
As soon as the bride and groom come down the aisle, I grab the couple and whisks them off for husband and wife portraits while your second photographer shoots the rest of the recessional. Then, she joins me and our bride and groom. We’ve found that doing these right away is helpful for a few reasons. First, that glowy golden light is our favorite and helps us produce the dreamiest portraits for our couple. Second, when we do those photos right away, we don’t have to pull the bride and groom away from their friends and family at cocktail hour. We get to bring them to cocktail hour when we’re done. Third, if it’s a cloudy day or on a property with tons of buildings that are blocking the light, waiting until the end of cocktail hour is risky because it might be too dark by then. Fourth, we need the 30 minutes right before the guests are brought into the ballroom to shoot the reception details and get a big room shot, since it's usually not set until then. So, that’s why we do husband and wife photos first!
The only exception to this would be during a summer months when the sunset is scheduled for well past a normal dinner hour. In that case, we'd talk with the bride and groom in advance, and build in a time during the reception to sneak out for golden hour.
RECEPTION DETAILS & COCKTAIL HOUR
During the remainder of your cocktail hour, we photograph the reception space and all the decor you have put hours into planning. I typically will photograph the room as a whole, full table scapes, and close ups of all your decor. This takes me about 30 minutes. We also will be setting up our lighting for the reception as well during this time. If we have time, I love capturing cocktail hour and your guests mingling with one another.
We tell our clients that if they can do grand entrances and first dances when they walk in, toasts in-between salad and dinner service, and cake-cutting right after dinner, they can have all the major milestone moments completed in 90 minutes. That leaves 30 minutes for open dancing photographs. In our opinion, that’s plenty of time before it all starts to look the same. It usually keeps the dance floor hotter for longer, too, because no one’s being pulled off the dance floor for milestone moments. Some couples opt to add more hours here, if loads of open dancing shots are really important to them or if they have a grand exit planned.