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.
+ BRIDE WITH BRIDESMAIDS
Without having a first look, we try to get as much done before the ceremony as possible, if circumstances allow. Sometimes, the bride is getting ready at a hotel, and we have to wait until after the ceremony to capture these images. Or we simply just do not have time. In that case, these images will be taken during cocktail hour.
I normally capture three things here: 10 minutes of individual portraits of the bride, and 20 minutes with the bride and bridesmaids. Once I've photographed the bride individually, 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.
+ GROOM WITH GROOMSMEN
This runs just like the girls’ section. We do individuals first and then the whole group. We'll start with photographing the groom first individually, and then bring the groomsmen over for group pictures. I like to do a variety of images for the guys. Standing and looking at the camera, and well as walking, laughing, and some fun groupings. We will also do individuals of each groomsmen with the groom.
If we're crunched with time, or the groom is getting ready at a separate location, I often times will have the second photographer capture these images after getting the groom ready.
If we do not have time, or we do not have access to a gorgeous backdrop, we will wait until after the ceremony, during cocktail hour to complete these images.
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.
Tip: If you’re worried about not having enough time after the ceremony to sign the marriage license, get husband and wife sunset portraits and bridal party, get reception detail photos and shots of guests at cocktail hour, you can always ask your venue if we can show up an hour before the ceremony to capture bridesmaids, and groomsmen photos.
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.
IF YOU TAKE ONE THING AWAY FROM THIS GUIDE, IT SHOULD BE THIS:
Typically, cocktail hours last 60 minutes. I always highly recommend my couples extend their cocktail a half hour, to 90 minutes when you are not doing a first look in order to capture everything we need to.
Often times we can capture some of the photos before the ceremony, like the bridesmaids and groomsmen, but if we do not have time or a location, they will all need done during the cocktail hour.
Family, full bridal party, couple photos, and reception details all will need done during your cocktail hour. When we are limited to 60 minutes, we have to shave time off of each section to fit everything in, and you will not be able to attend and eat all the cocktail hour food. Extending it 30 minutes allows us some cushion room to not feel rushed.
Most of my couples also do not think of their reception details. If we have 60 minutes, in most cases, we will not be able to et into your reception space before guests to photograph all your details and the room.
IMMEDIATE FAMILY PHOTOS
We allocate 30 minutes for immediate family photos as close to the ceremony end time as possible. I like to start with the family first, so they can disperse and go enjoy cocktail hour. This way, all your family members are already in one location and ready to be called into photos. This is the portion of the timeline that takes the most time, since we're gathering multiple people.
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.
FULL BRIDAY PARTY
If we have captured bridesmaids and groomsmen before the ceremony, we only have full bridal party left. I typically try to get three distinct 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.
If we didn't have time for bridesmaids and groomsmen before the ceremony, we add those in here. We'll need 30 minutes if that's the case.
HUSBAND & WIFE SUNSET PORTRAITS
As soon as we're done with everything, we take the bride and groom away from the party for some one - on - one time with them. 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, if we have time left. 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.
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
THIS IS ONLY IF YOU HAVE AN EXTENDED 90 MINUTE 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. 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.