First... let me say this! This page is intended as a guide, not to necessarily be used verbatim for EVERY wedding! They are all different, and may in many cases require some alteration to this schedule of events!
Ok, now that the disclaimer is out of the way... We have been getting a lot of brides asking how long they should hire us for, when everything should happen, and a lot of general scheduling questions. So! We decided we should put together a page that explains a typical wedding (ha! typical wedding) and the scheduling that takes place. This scheduling works best if everything is in one location. If you have multiple locations (getting ready, ceremony and reception in different places), add the travel time to these things! Also... add extra travel time, it's amazing how a 5 minute drive takes 20 minutes on a wedding day!
The first thing to decide, believe it not, is when your ceremony should be. If you're having an indoor ceremony, this isn't nearly as critical. If you're planning a beach wedding.... THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! When is best? Well... assuming you're going to follow the rest of our advice... an hour and a half prior to sunset for the start of a typical ceremony is perfect! By typical ceremony I mean, 20 minutes or so. If your ceremony is longer... adjust your start time accordingly.
Why an hour and a half before sunset? Glad you asked! Because... taking into account about a half hour for ceremony (they almost never go off -exactly- on time), we have an hour for formal photographs afterward, which coincides perfectly with your cocktail hour and... SUNSET!
When should your photographers start? This is largely personal choice on the part of our brides, but... we recommend two hours before the ceremony for the best timing. We've seen the trend of photographing the bride and the bridesmaids before hair and makeup are started all the way through to the dresses going on and well.... I'll be honest: No one uses those photographs. No one will choose a photo without nicely coiffed hair and makeup done to perfection over one that is ready to go down the aisle. Sure, some photos telling the story of getting ready are awesome, and we love that, but... when your photographers arrive, your hair and makeup should be well on the way to being done. Too many times, we've had bridesmaids, Moms, and sometimes even brides cover their faces or tell us "no photos!" until they are made up. To me? That's just a waste of money to have us there too early.
If however, you want to do a "First Look", that is, you and your soon-to-be spouse see each other prior to the ceremony... then I recommend adding another hour to the pre-ceremony time. Generally speaking, they're done once everyone is ready, and so... there are guests everywhere as the ceremony gets close. We want your First Look (should you choose to do one!) to be a private affair, just the two of you. We normally do some photos of the two of you once you've seen each other, kind of a mini-session. The idea is to finish up at least a half hour prior to the ceremony.
In addition, if you wanted to do "official" family or bridal party photographs before the ceremony to allow you to go to your cocktail hour (Hey, people do it sometimes, I don't judge!), then... this is something to really think about. We'd have to add yet another hour of time. Why so much? Well... we're expecting people to be late. "But the ceremony is at 5, why do I have to be ready at 3?". I hear Dads saying this all the time. If you think your family and bridal party can manage it, this does free up time later one, but, it's not for everyone. Something to keep in mind!
What will we do when we arrive? First... we're going to say hello and make sure everyone is comfortable with our presence. Then we will start with all your details: shoes, dress, flowers (if there), rings, jewelry, etc. You've put a lot of time into these things, and we want to start there before they are put on. Also, this puts people at ease because though you will know us pretty well, your Mom, friends, and bridesmaids likely won't. If we shove a camera in their face 30 seconds after meeting them? Ehh.... not a great introduction if you get my gist. Then we want the girls to get dressed so they can assist the bride. Don't be too worried about a messy room. I mean... if it looks like a tornado came through and you can't walk from A to B without stepping on something, yeah... clean it up! But... some amount of clutter is expected and we can work around it. Biggest pieces of advice at this point: Don't worry. Really, stop worrying. You're in good hands! We do this all the time, that's why you hired us! Relax, and be in the moment, your photographs will be sooooo much better if you do.
Now we want the bride to get into her dress. We leave the room for this, as there are some things we just -don't- photograph. It's a respect thing. I don't think half naked photos of a bride on her wedding day are something that needs to be shown around. Anyway.... once you are -in- your dress, as in covered, we come back. We want Mom and your girls to help you zip, lace, fluff, etc. that dress! These moments are great, shows the real story of what it takes to get ready for a wedding and the closeness of friends and family. Once you're all in, jewelry on, garter on (you learn who your real friends are there...), shoes on.... we do a casual shot of all your girls and you. If Mom is there... she's getting asked into a photo also. Then your bridal portraits. We ask that your girls, Moms, etc... don't follow for these. We're only an hour or so until ceremony time and emotions and stress can run high. We don't want extra of either going on now! We find some secluded spot to take some photographs of you in your dress, sometimes it's just your hotel room... others? Sky is the limit! However, we keep you away from the public, guests, and of course... the groom!
Once we're done with you... and I mean that in the nicest way possible, we go find the boys. Sometimes the schedule gets changed up, sometimes you're getting ready in different places, but don't worry... we work all this out ahead of time. When we get to the groom, we want him in a shirt and pants, again, some photos we just don't do ;). We will take photos of him putting on his tie, his jacket.... pinning of boutonnieres, etc. Then a few of the groom alone, then a casual style group shot of the boys. If Mom and Dad are there... they get in a photo too!
On to the ceremony! During your ceremony, we are NOT in charge. Meaning we won't interfere, we won't be up on the altar, we won't stand right next to you, below you, behind you etc. We keep our distance, we give your ceremony the respect it deserves! Don't worry, we won't miss anything either. We suggest telling guests to stay in their seats and leave the cameras and cell phones in their pockets and purses. We don't want you turning to look at your loved ones and seeing cell phones instead of smiles. Besides, why did you hire a professional anyway, right?
After the ceremony.... AKA... PHOTO TIME! I'll be honest here. We know this is most of your guest's least favorite time of the day. We also know the horror stories of photographers that took 2, 3 or more hours to do the photographs! Yes... it DOES happen. WE WILL NEVER DO THIS TO YOU! It's just wrong... so wrong. Give us an hour, and you'll get great photos.
Now, if you did everything before the ceremony.... you go to your Cocktail Hour and we start shooting candids of that.
Who should be in your formal photos and how do we do it? Easy.... Moms, Dads, Siblings and Grandparents (Great Grandparents too!), your Bridal Party, The Bride and Groom, and their children should they have any. That's it! If we have to photograph your cousin's next door neighbor's lawn guy's brother and everyone in between, you WILL be there all night, and we don't want that. We will photograph the families first, and release them, then bridal party, then the Bride and Groom alone. As we finish with people, we release them, so they can go eat... drink... socialize... you know.. enjoy the day? The fewer people standing around while we do these photographs, the smoother it goes. While we don't outright stop people from taking photographs during this time... we do encourage them not to, since... ours damn well better be better for one, and... they will simply slow the process and possibly distract people in the photos, causing more chaos than needs to be. Make sense?
Once we get to the photos of the Bride and Groom... we do ask everyone to politely go away :). We want you to feel comfortable, and relaxed. It's hard to be romantic when your new Father in Law and Brother of your new wife are shooting daggers out their eyes at you. We do some photographs of the two of you... maybe in a couple locations, and then.... we turn you over to the DJ or Coordinator, depending on the wedding.
Reception.... here is where we are again, NOT in charge. We will photograph everything that happens, from dances and cake cutting to Grandma tearing up, watching you on the dance floor, to your friends having the time of their lives. Yeah, that's what we do. We don't interfere, but, if you or anyone has a request shot they want... that's what we are there for! We help with the cake cutting, but still let you have fun with it too.
End of the Night.... Don't blink! This comes up on you fast. If you are planning a Grand Exit, or some kind of Getaway, obviously, you want your photographers there to capture it. If you are planning a grand exit, allow time! If your reception ends at 10 PM, and so does your photography time... then you plan to have a Grand Exit? Keep in mind, it takes some time to get people arranged, then you have to come out! Don't force us to stay for free.... really. Just make sure to allow about a half hour, since... you know, goodbyes, crowd moving, and of course the exit!
If you're not planning a grand exit, usually the last hour of the night is pretty much the same people on the dance floor, in varying stages of sobriety. Sometimes makes for interesting photos, but... not always necessary photos. If you don't do some sort of getaway, we will do a "closing shot", where we take you two somewhere nearby and do a few last shots of the two of you together to close the day's story.
There you have it! In a nutshell, a basic guide to planning out the events of your wedding day. Some things to note:
- We do not encourage "First Looks", though if you really want to do it.. we will go along. Most people do this to save time, but... they add time, not save it.
- We do not encourage doing family pictures or bridal party photos before the ceremony. Most times, this adds time to your day, which costs you more, and, managing that many people will normally create more troubles than it helps. In many cases, we've had to do the photos after the ceremony anyway because someone was late, or any of a myriad of other reasons, thus, wasting time and money.
- We don't like to waste your time or your money. I won't tell you you need 20 hours of coverage when 10 will work just fine. We're just nice like that.