Wedding days are hectic… even that is an understatement. Not just for the photographer, but for all parties involved. Bridesmaids need to get their hair and makeup done to perfection while keeping track of their dresses, shoes, jewelry, and of the bride of course. Coordinators must scurry about to fine tune those last minute details. The florist is putting the finishing touches to their elaborate centerpieces. The groom and his guys… well they’re basically kicking back a few brewskis to help calm their bro’s nerves. You have a whirlwind of crazy hovering over you and you need to be able to remain calm and get things done. So much is happening that day, and so much needs to be documented that there’s no time to be overwhelmed.
That’s where my classroom management skills from my previous teaching experience comes handy. After six years of photographing weddings, I have mastered my system that makes even the most hectic days a breeze…err let’s just say easier. If you are relaxed, your clients will be relaxed which results in beautiful images. Let’s face it, if you can’t hold your composure your bride will feel that tension and it will translate into their pictures. Deep breaths. My suggested timeline is here to help.
I started implementing said timeline two years ago. I’ve discovered that my brides who follow along with it help the day run smoothly. For those who don’t, yes it’s bumpy, but I can handle it. Sometimes you need to take the reigns and give specific direction as to what time things need to be completed.
So, this timeline (and this blog) is here to help brides, photographers, and all wedding vendors alike to help ease the pains of the day so that it becomes more enjoyable. No more need to panic. No more cutting down quality portrait time because the ceremony started late.
In a future blog I intend to delve more deeply into my system for groupings, but for today let’s focus on the timeline. Please note that my brides receive this timeline multiple times. They are first introduced to it at our initial consult. They then receive a foldable of the information in their welcome packets. Two weeks before the wedding they receive an email being more descriptive as to specific times with the timeline attached so that they can share it with their family and bridal party. Heck, sometimes I’ve even gone as far as to send it to the coordinator. Now everyone is on the same page, and they ALL know what to expect as far as photos go. The timeline correlates with just about any wedding day, and you’ll see why.
Suggested Time Line:
2 Hours before the ceremony the photographer arrives: I will arrive to wherever the bride is getting ready TWO hours prior to the start of the ceremony to begin with detail shots. Per request, my assistant can go wherever the groom is getting ready as well.
Detail and getting ready shots (30 minutes):
I instruct the bride to have these items ready:
– Rings (ALL THREE BANDS)
– Bridal Jewelry
– Both bridal and bridesmaids’ bouquets
– Anything else you want a picture of (i.e. invitation, sign, or any other special memorabilia or garment you’ll be wearing that day)
*- If you are getting ready at your venue, I will be taking detail shots of the venue, if not my assistant will arrive at the venue before me (and before the boys arrive) to take those detail shots.
At this time it is important to note that we would also be taking photos of the bride getting the finishing touches to her makeup and getting into her dress. Corset dresses take at least 15 minutes to get into so make sure to leave room in the timeline to account for that, as well as travel time if the bride is getting ready off site from her venue.
Bride and family portraits (15 minutes):
To keep up with the flow of the day, it is important that at this time the bride’s immediate family is either where the bride is getting ready OR at the venue. Please note that it is 1 hour and 30 minutes BEFORE the ceremony. Punctuality is key, so please remind family members to be at the agreed upon location at this time.
(Immediate family consists of: Mom, Dad, Siblings, and Grandparents)
Bride and bridesmaids photos (15 minutes):
Please be sure that ALL bridesmaids are picture ready at this time. The goal is to get as many photos prior to the ceremony as possible. Note it is now 1 hour and 15 minutes BEFORE the ceremony.
Groom and family portraits (15 minutes):
Just like the bride and her family portraits, please have the groom and his immediate family ready for pictures at this time. We are now 1 hour away from the ceremony.
Groom and groomsmen photos (15 minutes):
Again, it is SUPER important to have all groomsmen accounted for at this time. We are now 30 minutes away from the ceremony.
15 minutes prior to the ceremony I will be setting up my equipment and getting candids of your guests arriving to the ceremony site.
Ceremony (time varies):
During the ceremony, my goal is to be as inconspicuous as possible. You won’t know that I am even there!
Combined Family Portraits (15 minutes):
IMMEDIATELY following the ceremony have both immediate families of the bride and groom meet at a designated area. Usually I will scope this out ahead of time, and ask the DJ or officiant to make an announcement. The tricky part about this is to refrain from chatting with guests (time is of the essence, and I don’t want to cut too much into your cocktail hour). I recommend after the recessional walking to a remote area and taking five minutes to be alone with each other. I will set up the family for the group photos, then come get you.
Bridal Party Pictures (15 minutes):
While I am taking the group photos, my assistant will rally up the bridal party that way everyone will be where they need to be and ready for their pictures to be taken.
Bride and Groom Portraits (30 minutes):
I like to save the best for last, and if everything goes smoothly, we will have ample time to get the most important shots of the day. We may even finish early enough for the bride and groom to enjoy some of their cocktail hour!
For the remainder of the night, most of what I photograph will be candids! I’m merely a fly on the wall. I am there to get ALL the special moments (i.e the grand entrance, first dance, father/daughter and mother/son dance, bouquet toss, garter toss, cake cutting, photos of your guests dancing, and the grand exit (if they have one). Also during this time, I can get photos of you with anybody who wasn’t part of the formal portrait hour earlier. Sometimes, my couples ask me to come with them as they greet each table to get a photo with everyone then. That is perfectly fine. Occasionally I may ask to take a night photo of the bride and groom too!
Most of the time I finish with the portraits early enough to get photos of the reception site, however if we are running short on time, or if the ceremony site is different from the reception site, I will have my assistant take those detail shots while I am taking the formal portraits.
If the couple opts to do a first look, I’ll arrive 3 hours prior to the ceremony. Everything that would be taken after the ceremony will simply be moved to before. However, I will hold off to do the romantics until after the ceremony for better lighting and more time to focus on the couple.
This timeline, though informative, is condensed to it’s simplest form. Even if clients aren’t good at following it, I maintain it and stick to it the best I can. Sometimes my associate needs to take groomsmen photos while I focus on the bride, but overall the day is under control.
I hope you find this blog helpful. It took two years in the making, and I can say with certainty it works!
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