Tips and Suggestions for Planning Your Wedding Day Time Line

Getting Ready Photos and Pre-ceremony Portraits:

I’ve grouped these together as they tend to happen around the same time and (hopefully) one flows into the other. I typically start about 2 1/2 hours before the ceremony time. I like to arrive just before you put on your wedding dress, as I like to photograph your dress hanging up with the flowers and shoes and other accessories. This is also the time where we can get photos of you getting your hair and make-up done, or at least the final touches. We don’t normally go to the hair salon because we’ve found it doesn’t produce great images and most brides prefer to have the final stages documented, not the beginning. We can show up either at your home or the ceremony location to do the “Getting Ready” photos.

Your bridesmaids should be dressed before I arrive so they can help you get into your dress, it just looks so much better in the photos than if they are not dressed. Your mom, grandmother and any other special relatives are welcome at this session. 

We photograph you getting ready in a candid approach, so we ask that you just do things naturally and pretend we aren’t there. These make the best photos! Generally I will concentrate on the ladies getting ready, though I will make some time to get photos of the guys getting ready if they are at the same location.

Once you are dressed, about two hours before the ceremony, I will do some portraits of you and then you with each of your bridesmaids, flower girls, maid of honor, etc.

If you are getting ready at a different location from the ceremony, make sure to allow enough travel time to get to the ceremony location and still be able to do these photos beforehand without being seen by guests (believe it or not, guests will begin arriving often an hour before the ceremony time!)

If the guys are wearing boutonnières, make sure a woman is with them to help, as they will not figure them out on their own!

The Ceremony:

OK, now the easy part, the ceremony! We photograph the ceremony just as it happens. If the officiant allows, I will be kneeling at the front of the aisle to get you coming down the aisle. Then I move to the back of the venue. During the ceremony, I highly recommend you check with your church long before the wedding day to find out what their policies and any restrictions they may have on photographers. We are bound to follow the rules imposed by the church. So make sure they don’t say “No photos” or that’s what we’ll get from the ceremony. Beach and outdoor settings are much less restrictive.

Make sure you’ve told us of any special events that may happen during the ceremony. Will you present roses to your parents, will there be a remembrance candle, will there be special readers? 

If you are having a unity candle or a sand ceremony, make sure it is located in a position that can face your guests (and photographers!) Otherwise, you’ll have photos of the backs of your heads and we won’t see what you’re doing. What often works best is to have the unity candle off to the side and have the couple walk behind it, facing the guests. If you have a long train, make sure to have a bridesmaid assist you with it. This will produce the best photos, and your guests can see what you’re doing. And take your time lighting the candle. This also applies to the first kiss: take your time, enjoy it, and let us get lots of photos of it!

After the Ceremony:

This is where things can get complicated and confusing! This is the one time of the day where the time-line can get skewed, often due to a receiving line. Once you walk down the aisle after the ceremony, you have to decide if you are going to have a receiving line or not, where you stand in the back of the ceremony site and greet all your guests. This is the one event that can eat up so much time. Most brides don’t realize how long this will take and don’t plan it in their time-line. The result is that it affects your formal photography time and many photos don’t get taken because you have to leave to get to the reception.

If you stand in the back of the church after it’s over, you will have a receiving line whether planned or not! Guests will naturally come over to congratulate you if they see you. Most wedding planners will recommend that you go into hiding immediately after the recessional. This allows the guests to leave the church and proceed to the reception. I highly recommend having the minister make an announcement to the guests instructing them to go to the reception location, so they know what they’re supposed to do.

Some couples like to stage a getaway so the guests can blow bubbles or otherwise cheer you on as you leave the church and drive off in the limo. Just make sure to tell the limo driver to bring you right back! This can take about 15 minutes; so make sure to schedule it into your time-line. 

Make sure to tell the entire bridal party, parents, grandparents (and any other family members you want in the photos) to stay back for photos, or they will not be in them.

The Formal Portrait Session:

This is where we create the portraits you and your family will cherish for a lifetime, please allow enough time! I work quickly and efficiently but I can’t do this if participants aren’t present and attentive. I like to start with the families first. The bride and groom are in all of these so be prepared! I’ll bring up the parents and photograph groupings of each side. ’ll add grandparents and siblings as well. At this point, I’m happy to do any combinations you’d like to have, just be aware of the time it takes.

After we finish with the families, I will start with the bridal party (again, the bride and groom are included).

Lastly, but most importantly, I want to photograph the couple. This is where we do the timeless images that will be cherished for years to come. All I ask is about 15 minutes with the bride and groom alone. Please let your wedding planner know that you want 15 minutes after the group photos! We’ll walk around and take advantage of the scenery at the venue location. I’ll look for window light, as well as various outdoor locations.

How long does it take to do formal portraits, including families and bridal party? Good question! It really depends on how large your families are, how large your bridal party is, etc. I’d recommend 40-50 minutes if you have parents, grandparents, siblings, large bridal party, etc. However, I always recommend building in some cushion, a little breathing time for you.

Outdoor Sunset Ceremonies:

Some couples want to have to have their ceremony at sunset, or many times the venue will suggest that time. I have to disagree that it’s the best time to have your ceremony and here’s why: Sunsets last only 5-10 minutes, and it quickly gets progressively darker. While I can use flash, it does not yield the best photographs, in my opinion. 

Then, after sunset, we still have to do formals, and now your beautiful outdoor locale is dark. The beach, or country club, or garden, etc, will not show in the photos.

I strongly recommend you plan your ceremony at least 1.5 to 2 hours before sunset. This will allow you to have your ceremony in your beautiful locale and for the scenery to show. Then we will still have enough time (and light) to do the formals. I like to save the sunset for the bride and groom.

The Reception:

Now the fun can really begin! Most of the stressful parts of the day are over. The time-line can be more relaxed and our photography goes back to being documentary. Normally, the DJ takes over the time-line at this point. He should line you and your bridal party up for your grand entrance. Something that is being done lately is to make your entrance than go immediately to your first dance. I like this, as it tends to give substance to your entrance. Make sure to coordinate this with your DJ. 

Because it is usually a long day, we do ask to be included in the dinner count. Most of the time we are on our feet for 7-10 hours or more, so this allows us a few minutes to get off our feet and get much-needed food. We usually eat while you’re eating, as no one likes to be photographed putting food into their mouths!

My goal is to provide you with the best photos possible, and to also help you with a realistic time-line so you can enjoy your wedding day stress-free! Call or email me with any questions or concerns.