I know you put so much time and effort into making your wedding day beautiful and memorable, so I want to be sure to be able to capture it to the best of my ability.
Great photos require more than just a talented photographer, great photos need time. I have compiled this post to help you optimize your wedding day schedule in order to get the very most out of your wedding photographs. Each section is complete with tips to help your wedding day go smoothly and beautifully.
Wedding Day Preperations
To some couples preparation photos are very important and to others they aren’t a huge priority. But keep in mind, this is always a very dense time for photos. During prep we not only capture the actual getting ready, but genuine, heartfelt moments between you, your family, and your closest friends. Candid photos from part of the day often end up very special to the couple because they are so heavy with emotion and excitement!
During preparations, we also capture all of your wedding day details, from the dress to the invites. When you arrive at your preparation location, put all of the details you would like to have photographed in one spot so we don’t have to bother you with gathering things once we arrive.
The specific details you would like us to photograph is an entirely personal choice, but here are some common details couples like us to capture:
- The dress- bring a nice hanger! A stunning dress on a plastic hanger isn’t very flattering
- The shoes
- Invitation suite- bring at least 2 pristine sets
- Bouquet- Have your flowers delivered to your getting ready location so that we are able to photograph them early in the day before they wilt. These are also valuable to have for your bridal portraits.
- Any valuables or family heirlooms
- The Jacket
- The shoes
- Boutonnieres- Have your boutonnieres delivered to your getting ready location so that we are able to photograph them early in the day before they wilt. These are also valuable to have for your groom portraits.
- Any valuables or family heirlooms
-Gentlemen: If we are photographing your prep, wait to put your jacket, tie and boutonniere on until we get there. But please be otherwise showered and ready.
-Gentlemen: having a woman such as your mom, sister, or grandmother put your boutonniere on for you can be a special moment. So encourage someone important to you to stay close and do this for you when the time comes.
-Encourage family and wedding party members to keep the getting ready area as tidy as possible! Things tend to get particularly messy when the entire bridal party is getting ready in one area. Try to leave at least one designated room free of clutter so there is a nice, clean area to photograph in.
-Utilize natural light! When choosing the space you will be getting ready in, try to find somewhere with a lot of natural light. Big windows and light colored walls will give off beautiful natural light that not only photograph well, but help your makeup artist to apply your makeup in the most natural and flattering way.
-Ladies: if you are having your bridesmaids help you put your dress on, have them get dressed before you so they aren’t in their pajamas for the photos! If your mom or sister will be helping you into your dress make sure they are dressed and ready by when the time comes to put on your dress.
*You can see our full wedding day preparations gallery here.
Once you are fully ready and in your wedding attire, I will pull you aside for some individual portraits. This is a special time to distance yourself a bit from all of the pre-wedding commotion, get comfortable in front of the camera, and prepare for the excitement to come!
-If you have a bouquet, please make sure it has been delivered to you by this point!
Please allow for 1.5 to 2 hours for preparation photos and individual portraits.
*You can see our full wedding individual portraits gallery here.
The big question: Should or should you not see each other before the ceremony? We almost always recommend doing a first look. It is romantic, intimate, allows for us to have much more time for photographs, and really helps to calm pre-wedding jitters. At the end of the day, whether or not you choose to see each other before the ceremony is completely up to you, but if you do decide to do a first look here is an idea of how it will go:
We will place the two of you in a stunning location with beautiful light, give you some loose instructions to facilitate the surprise and then stand back and capture the magic as it unfolds! Once the two of you have had some time to chat and cuddle we will move on to your couple's portraits.
-Sometimes family, the wedding party, or even guests ask to be a part of the first look. While it is your choice, we do not recommend this. Your first look is one of the few times during your wedding day the two of you will be (almost) alone. This is a very intimate, and special moment that we want you to feel completely comfortable in, so it's best not to have an audience.
Allow 30-45 minutes for this
Wedding Party Photos
If you do choose to do a first look, it is best to get as many of the "formal" photos out of the way before the ceremony as possible so you can enjoy your cocktail hour! Once you have had your first look and couples portraits, we like to bring out the entire wedding party and capture photos of everyone together. Please let us know if you have any specific or out of the ordinary groupings you would like us to capture.
-If you have bouquets and/or boutonnieres please make sure they have arrived by this point so they can be a part of the photographs.
See our full wedding party photo gallery here.
Please allow for 30 minutes for wedding party photos
We always recommend leaving 30 minutes before the ceremony during which you are free to relax and prepare for the ceremony.
During this time we will photograph details in the ceremony and reception area. If at all possible, it is best to have the reception area set up and cleared out by this time to allow us to get stunning detail shots of all of your hard work without guests in the background. If the entire reception space cannot be finished by this time, try to have at least one table fully set up.
See our full details photo gallery here.
Wedding ceremonies can last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour, so please let us know how long your ceremony is and if there is anything different about it that we should be aware of. Things like the releasing of butterflies, the ceremony being in a different language, or anything out of the ordinary should be shared with us in advance so we can make sure to capture everything properly.
One thing that often gets neglected during the ceremony is light! While you may not think about it beforehand, the lighting during the ceremony greatly affects your photographs!
More light does not necessarily mean good light. Next time you’re outside in the harsh sun, look at the shadows on someone’s face- they are harsh and contrasty. The strong direction of the sun will bring out flaws and imperfections in their skin. Cameras pick up on this unflattering light even more than our eyes do! For your ceremony lighting, it is optimal to either be in the shade, or have the sun behind you. Large trees make stunning ceremony backdrops as well as providing shade and good light. If you are getting married in an open area, try to position yourselves so the sun is behind you or build an arch that provides shade.
-If you are having a sunset ceremony, all of your formal photos will need to be done beforehand (this includes your couple’s photos!) or else all of your photos will be in the dark! While we can shoot photos in the dark, we are natural light photographers and will get the best photographs if we are able to use the sun!-If you are choosing not to do a first look, schedule your ceremony early enough in the day that there are at least 2 hours of light after the ceremony.
See our full ceremony photo gallery here.
Immediately after the ceremony, we will gather all of your close family members in an area near the ceremony space for formal family photographs. Please make all family members who will be participating aware that they must stick around immediately after the ceremony to take these photos. Family members often wander off in the excitement which can add additional stress and lost time- so please make sure they are aware not to leave!
Try to keep these groupings minimal. Having 27 different family groupings not only becomes stressful, but it is also time consuming and not-so-romantic. Generally, these family photos only include immediate family members such as parents, grandparents, and siblings. However, if you have family members such as an aunt or uncle you are extremely close with, they should be included too. Please indicate on your wedding forms who these additional family members are so we can be sure to include them!
-Designate someone such as a coordinator or maid of honor to be in charge of keeping people together for family photos.
-For non-immediate family that you still would like photos with, we can always capture more candid photos with them during the reception! Please just be sure to let us know who they are!
-In the future, these photos will mean more to you than you can imagine, so don't be afraid to lose the cheesy smile and step in close and give your loved ones a good ol' hug and kiss!
Allow 20-30 minutes for this depending on the amount of groupings
If we have finished all of your other formal photographs before the ceremony then you are free to enjoy your wedding! This is the perfect time to take a few minutes alone or enjoy some appetizers with your guests during cocktail hour!
See our full family photo gallery here.
Wedding Party Photos
(if you don't do a first look)
If you have decided to not do a first look or not finish the wedding party photos before the ceremony, these will be done immediately after family photos. Make the wedding party aware beforehand that they must stick around immediately after the ceremony to take these photos. Wedding party members often wander off after the ceremony which can add additional stress and lost time! So please make sure they are aware not to leave.
Please allow 20 minutes for this
(if you don't do a first look)
If you have chosen not to do your couples portraits before the ceremony, these will be done after family and wedding party photos. For most couples, these are the photographs they treasure their whole life, so it is important to allow us enough time to get some amazing shots. One of the biggest reasons we recommend doing a first look is because it gives us much more time to photograph your couples portraits. But for couples who choose not to, we highly recommend lengthening the cocktail hour and/or shooting more couples portraits at sunset.
Please allow 30 minute for this
For a full layout and optimal timing of the wedding reception we recommend speaking with a coordinator who can help you to optimize your timeline. If you're looking for a great coordinator or planner, we highly recommend Lauren Kendle Events
-Feed your vendors! This will make them so much happier, and want to work harder for you, I promise!
-Doing toasts before food is served keeps your guests fully focused on whoever is speaking, rather than on their own food.
-If you plan to keep and preserve your bouquet, toss a small "tossing bouquet" or a bridesmaid's bouquet in order to avoid your bouquet being obliterated to the tune of "All the Single Ladies"
If you are open to it, we will pull you aside for 15-20 minutes around sunset to capture these romantic, etherial sunset portraits. It is great time to have a few minutes of quiet and reflection and to view your wedding party from afar.
If you are planning to do a grand exit, then we will stay through the dancing until you're ready to leave. While sparklers are always a grand exit favorite, many venues do not allow them (party poopers.) Bubbles, lanterns, glow sticks and dried flowers can be fun and beautiful alternatives
-Walk slowly! I know you want to run, but walking slowly gives us a better chance to get more photos and gives your guests more time to see you.
-If things are being thrown i.e. rice, confetti, flowers, don't look up! It is never fun to get that stuff in your eyes.
-Smile, laugh giggle, yell, kiss! This is literally one of the best and most beautiful days of your life. Don't be afraid to show how excited you are!
-Stop and take a look back. Take a deep breath and take in every part of the day. This is a memory you will have forever!