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If you are thinking to yourself that photos on your wedding day is going to be like herding cats... well you're probably right! But if you do these simple things it will make it a stress free experience!
Step one: have a plan! Most of the time your wedding photographer will help you with this, but if they haven't it is a great idea to have a plan that you can follow. This will allow things to flow from one thing to the next. It doesn't matter if you do your photos before or after the ceremony, but remember this, If you are doing them after your guests will be sitting by themselves waiting for your arrival, and photos will probably take more than an hour. I recommend doing a first look, then photos before the ceremony. This allows for a little more relaxed pace, and gives you room in case your missing someone to get them later.
Something else to consider is locations. If you want photos other than the ceremony site, then where? Do you want the entire wedding party there? Do you want family there? I always like to start off with the couple by themselves. In a perfect world about 60 minutes. This gives your wedding party a little extra time to finish getting ready. And then I have them arrive about 15 minutes early. Once the wedding party is there we can jump right into them and say another 30-45 minutes of photos. Pro tip-if you have kids under 5 in the wedding party you will only 5-10 minutes where they will be able to focus. Literally one or two shots! You will want to plan the timing perfectly. I like to have them arrive at the end of the wedding party shots, and they are gone 5 minutes into the family shots. Then they can relax and be happy before the wedding. For the family photos a shot list is key. You will want to list out all of the groupings you want. ie: Bride, Groom, Groom's mom, Groom's Dad, etc. And do this for everyone on both sides. This will make it as easy as reading off of a list when your trying to organize everyone and what comes next. I give them all one time slot, and if its a church wedding I have them sit on different sides just to make it simple for them to get up front, then to return to their seat.
Once the family photos are done it is pretty simple. Things like the grand entrance, the first dance, the cake cutting should all be on your list as well as times. If you don't put times on there the groom will usually check out after dinner. Then you will spend half the night chasing him. Make sure the dj also has these times so they can help announce them. I also recommend setting a few minutes aside at sunset for a few pictures outside. This only has to be 10-15 minutes. But it is a chance to get some great shots and for you to get a little breathing room. This time can be anywhere in the hour prior to sunset.
Step two: Have someone assigned to keep you on task! This is a very hard job, so make sure the person or persons you pick can handle it. I usually recommend the personal attendants. Why? Because they are not in a lot of the photos, and are close enough friends or family to have an idea of who everyone is if they have to go searching for someone. If you have your schedule down you can create a google calendar with reminders 5 minutes before everything, and just share it with them. They should also be someone who is ok with taking charge and stepping between you and family and friends to remind you of what's next. During the reception everyone will want to talk to you, so being able to step in politely and say they need to borrow you for a couple minutes is a must. This person should also be the go between for you and the photographer. So for family portraits this is the person who gets everyone up in front, makes sure the next group is there, and keeps it all together. Since this is probably almost as stressful of a job as being the wedding photographer, make sure you do something really nice for them. Take them out to dinner the week before, give them a gift certificate to dinner and a hotel, something to show them how important they are to you and your big day.
Step three: Communication! You have your schedule down, and someone to run it, make sure everyone else has it too! Wedding party, family (whos in group photos), Dj, photographer, videographer, anyone who needs it. I would make sure that everyone has the schedule keepers phone number as well. That way they can call that person and not you when things come up, because they will come up. I personally like to know what's going on so I can make sure we are getting the shots we need. So if one of the groomsmen tells me their shoes are the wrong size and they need to drive an hour to get new ones... well I will most likely tell them to send someone else, and then photoshop their shoes or crop them out so we can get the photos done.
Step four: Enjoy yourselves! If you have done the first three, don't forget that this is your day! Things will come up. Trust the people you have to take care of them. Over the years I have seen things like the wrong cake being delivered, grandma and grandpa getting lost, a bride getting lost, more than one member of the wedding party getting alcohol poisoning, and a few acts of nature! Just remember this day is all about you and your ceremony, and the rest is just bonus. Add time in the schedule for just the two of you. I alway block off the 30 minutes prior to the ceremony for the couple. I don't care how they spend it, but I take that time to make sure I am ready for the ceremony, and I don't chase them getting photos. You create the schedule, so you can add time in where ever it is needed.
I hope this helps you be able to enjoy your wedding day as much as possible! If you have any wedding related questions please feel free to email me directly Robert@robsmithphotography.com or if you have ideas I can add to this please comment below! Wishing you all the best in your upcoming wedding!