Congratulations!

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Wedding planning is an incredible amount of work.  So to help make it a little easier for you I created this guide to make getting those perfect photos a little bit easier!

This is my process for creating beautiful wedding photos that will last lifetimes.  This works for either posed or a photojournalistic style.  This just helps you and your photographer to know where, and when to be looking for the shots.


Getting started

I know most of you reading this have  been dreaming of your wedding day since you were little.  

You probably have been starting to plan every little detail about your day already right?  But how much thought has been put into the photography?  If your answer is "huh?" well you're not alone.  But like everything else you need a plan!  So where to start?  When I am helping a couple plan out the photography portion of their day I always start in the most important place, the ceremony time and location.  So....

Ceremony-3:00 @ Holy Cross 

Once that is nailed down we can start planning everything else!  So then the next question would be, do you want your photos before or after the ceremony?  The tradition way of doing things since the camera was invented was ceremony first then photos.  I always recommend the opposite, photos first, then the ceremony.  And I have a reason for this, and it has nothing to do with photography!  I have done over a dozen weddings that I can remember where the bride and groom wanted to do it the traditional way where he isn't allowed to see the bride before the ceremony.  Ok, so we plan for doing the photos after.  Now before you say oh we only need one or two photos of the two of us think about this.  Both of your families expect family photos.  Both of your families want family photos.  And you are probably going to cave in to them.  So we need almost two full hours after the ceremony.  Only maybe an hour and twenty minutes of that is for photos, the other 40 minutes is for getting set up and ready.  This means that there is two hours where your guests will have to find things to amuse themselves before the reception.  And i have seen over a third of guests disappear and not come back.  So if you ordered food for 300 and a third decides that you won't miss them and goes to see a movie..... yeah your eating leftovers for the next 4 months solid!  So photos before the ceremony, social hour starting at 4 and dinner about 5:30.  Now your schedule looks something like this.

Family Photos 1:00 @ Holy Cross

Ceremony 3:00 @ Holy Cross

Social Hour 4:00 @ Someplace Yummy

Dinner 5:30 @ Someplace Yummy

So now we can start filling in the photography!  And no I don't count the family photo time, im talking about the fun ones!  You and your friends, you and your significant other, just out having a little fun together!  If I have my way we plan another 2-3 hours just for this.  An hour for the couple, an hour for the wedding party, and the other hour is for travel, set up, and breathing room.

So now your day is outlined like this

First look 10:00 @ TBD

Wedding Party 11:00 @ TBD

Family Photos 1:00 @ Holy Cross

Ceremony 3:00 @ Holy Cross

Social Hour 4:00 @ Someplace Yummy

Dinner 5:30 @ Someplace Yummy

Now we have the basics and can start on the details of your wedding day!  We will keep popping back into scheduling from time to time.

Jackson wedding party in gazebo

Hair & Make up

Before we can set a time for this you need to know how long it will take, and where you are having it done.  Wherever you are having it done, think about the location.  In a perfect world there would be large windows with natural light that we could sit you next to while they are working.  Yes I may be dreaming, but if you are going back and forth about if you want it done in the mall with all the girls, or if you want the stylist to come to you in the hotel suite, go for the one with the better windows!  Pro tip: Start with make up if you are having the photographer there!This way you are photoready almost immediately.  

So lets pretend that we now know it takes 2 hours for For hair and makeup, and an hour to get dressed.... So that puts you in the chair at the salon at 7am, and getting dressed at 9 or a little after.  So we can add these things to the schedule!  But wait, aren't we forgetting about your other half?  Where are the guys when all this is happening?  Where and when are they getting ready?  So now your schedule looks like this.

Bride

7:00 Hair and Makeup @ Stylist

9:00 Getting Ready @ Hotel

9:05 Dress Shots @ Hotel

9:30 Lacing the dress @ Hotel w/Mom

10:00 First Look @ TBD (One of you will be late don't worry!)

Groom

7:00 Breakfast @ Home

8:30 Get Dressed @ Home

9:45 Arrive at First Look @ TBD

10:00 First Look

Together

10:00 First Look @ TBD w/o wedding party

11:00 Wedding Party Photos @ TBD w/wedding party

Pro tip: if you have kids under 5 in the wedding party time it so they only have to be available for 10 minutes tops!  Over that is most likely a crying meltdown of a mess!


Family Photos

So whether or not the thought of family excites you, there are some ways to get through it  quickly and painlessly.  

Pro Tip: appointing someone to corral both of your families and keep things running on schedule will help immensely!  We all know someone in our family who loves being in charge, but isn't going to be in a lot of the photos.  This person keep track on the shot list and makes sure grandma, uncle Joe, or cousin Tommy aren't missed in all of the confusion.

Your shot list.  These can vary wildly from wedding to wedding, but usually go something like this.  

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Bride's Side

Bride w/Parents

Bride & Groom w/Parents

Bride w/Siblings

Bride & Groom w/Siblings

Bride w/Grandparents

Bride & Groom w/Grandparents

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

Groom's Side

Groom w/Parents

Groom & Bride w/Parents

Groom w/Siblings

Groom & Bride w/Siblings

Groom w/Grandparents

Groom & Bride w/Grandparents

Etc. 

Etc.

Etc.

Even with the largest of families by following some sort of shot list you can get through it in less time than you would think.  Again with children under 5 plan to only have them and whoever is watching them available for no more than 10 minutes.  If you plan about 5 minutes per grouping you can now figure out if we start with the bride's side that her family will take 45 minutes.  The Groom's side will take 45 minutes.  And we are done with 30 minutes to spare for you to relax and grab something to eat before the ceremony.  And now your schedule looks like this.


Bride

7:00 Hair and Makeup @ Stylist

9:00 Getting Ready @ Hotel

9:05 Dress Shots @ Hotel

9:30 Lacing the dress @ Hotel w/Mom

10:00 First Look @ TBD (One of you will be late don't worry!)

Groom

7:00 Breakfast @ Home

8:30 Get Dressed @ Home

9:45 Arrive at First Look @ TBD

10:00 First Look

Together

10:00 First Look @ TBD w/o wedding party

11:00 Wedding Party Photos @ TBD w/wedding party

1:00 Family Photos @ Holy Cross (See Family Photo Schedule)

2:30 Break Time

Family Photos

1:00 Bride w/Parents

1:05 Bride & Groom w/Parents

1:10 Bride w/Siblings

1:15 Bride & Groom w/Siblings

1:20 Bride w/Grandparents

1:25 Bride & Groom w/Grandparents

1:30 Bride w/Someone

1:35 Bride & Groom w/Someone

1:40 Bride w/someone else

1:45 Groom w/Parents

1:50 Groom & Bride w/Parents

1:55 Groom w/Siblings

2:00 Groom & Bride w/Siblings

2:05 Groom w/Grandparents

2:10 Groom & Bride w/Grandparents

2:15 Groom w/someone

2:20 Groom & Bride w/someone

2:25 Groom w/Someone else

If you decide to share the family portrait schedule with everyone...

I would tell them be there and ready to be photographed 10 minutes before your time.  The schedule is fluid so it can be earlier or later.  If they are running late text the person you put in charge of organizing photos.  And if someone loses their shoes, before they decide to drive 40 miles to get new ones I can easily edit out feet, I can't make them appear in photos if they are not there.


The Ceremony

Zamora wedding first kiss

From a photographers standpoint this is the most stressful part of the entire day! 

Subjects are moving, there is limited areas to work with, guests and other vendors often get in the way of shots at the most horrible times.  And all of this while you are trying to be as invisible as you can be so not to ruin the moment for the couple.  There are a thousand different ways that things can go wrong, and only one chance to get it right.  But there are ways to prepare.  My only recommendation is to invite your photographer to the rehearsal.  It gives them a chance to see exactly how the ceremony will go.  They can see where you enter, where you stand, when you sit or light candles, or any other thing your doing.  The only drawback to being at the rehearsal is that it gives the officiant time to talk to you and go over the rules. It's not that this is a bad thing, i just personally feel bad when I ignore them and pretend I forgot the next day to make certain I get the key shots that you are paying me to get.  I also recommend posting a sign either asking guest to refrain from taking pictures, or asking them to remain in their seats.  I agree that it is a sad thing that you actually have to ask people to behave themselves at a wedding, but that's the day and age we live in.  If you don't ask, you will have at least two of them.


After the Ceremony

Everyone has different ideas for after the ceremony, and they are all good ideas!  Just make sure your photographer knows what the plan is!

I've had couples do the traditional receiving line on the front steps of the church.  I have had couples that do a horse drawn carriage ride from the ceremony to the reception immediately after the ceremony.  I have had a couple who stopped to pray at a park overlooking a river.  I have had couples who take the entire wedding on a party bus and stop off at their favorite brewery.  Whatever you have planned it is a great idea!  Just tell your photographer.  For some reason the time between the ceremony and dinner rarely makes it onto the schedule. 



The Reception

Planning for the fun part of the night!

During the evening I try to stay out of the way as much is possible.  You and your family and friends want to be able to spend as much time having fun together as possible.  There are a few little tips to make life easier though.  The first is the cake.. most venues out there assume you don't care where they put your absolutely perfect wedding cake that you spent all this money on having it custom designed.  The spot that they usually pick is along the back wall in a corner of the room which for photography is horrible.  So have them move it out from the wall.  Honestly if you want your friends and family to be able to watch you cut it I would recommend right in the center of the room.  I know that this might not work, but see if they can come up with a spot that allows us to work around the cake.  If I can move around the cake, I can put it and you in the foreground and you and your guests in the background.  Otherwise they will be the two of you with your cake, and for some reason an orange wall....  I have no idea why but almost half of the reception venues I shoot have a weird orange colored wall that the cake is in front of.  But I'm off topic.

The second thing I recommend is when you are doing the seating chart (if you are doing one) is to place the photographer somewhere that they can quickly stand up and get shots of you while eating.  (I'm just assuming your feeding your photographer)  Normally the spot I would choose is as close to the middle front as I can get.  I know this is where parents and grandparents will be, but I try to get as close to that as possible.  Sometime during dinner they are going to start the kiss chant and I only have a second to get the shot.  Another of my tips... Once they start tapping the glasses or chanting, give me about 5 seconds to get into place.  Just act normal and take your time before giving them what they want.  

The third thing I recommend, is at this part of the night let the DJ run the show.  They have the microphone and a clock on their computer screen so it is much easier for them to keep track and announce things when needed.  Just give them the times of everything your doing and then all you need to do is listen to the dj for your prompts all night.  The first dance, the parent dances, the garter, the bouquet toss, the dollar dance, cutting the cake.  Whatever your plan is, let them keep track.  It will make your night so much more enjoyable than trying to keep track of everything!  I also try to get about 10 minutes alone with the two of you at sunset.  Depending on the night, we can get great colors and lighting, and you wouldn't believe how many couples who have thanked me for getting them away for a few minutes.  I try to make these fun and easy shots, and then get you back to your guest.

My final tip is a simple one!  enjoy yourself!  You have paid a lot of people a lot of money to be able to throw this party for your friends and family, don't worry about the little things and have fun! 

"In 40 years nobody is going to remember what you served for dinner, or what you were wearing!"

Grandmother of one of my brides


The Schedule

So now we have run through the entire day, and are back to the schedule.

So below is how my schedule usually looks after we get everything in order.  Now again, this schedule is not intended to be the end all say all rulebook for you wedding day.  This is a guide that I use to give me the best chance at getting all of the important shot.  It helps me to ensure that when your having your first dance, I'm not in the bathroom.  The most important part of the wedding is the two of you!  I have routinely scrapped the schedule 10 minutes into it to be able to accommodate unforeseen things.  Two hours later we are back on schedule again!  

Bride

7:00 Hair and Makeup @ Stylist

9:00 Getting Ready @ Hotel

9:05 Dress Shots @ Hotel

9:30 Lacing the dress @ Hotel w/Mom

10:00 First Look @ TBD (One of you will be late don't worry!)

Groom

7:00 Breakfast @ Home

8:30 Get Dressed @ Home

9:45 Arrive at First Look @ TBD

10:00 First Look

Together

10:00 First Look @ TBD w/o wedding party

11:00 Wedding Party Photos @ TBD w/wedding party

1:00 Family Photos @ Holy Cross (See Family Photo Schedule)

2:30 Break Time

3:00 Ceremony @ Holy Cross

3:30 Receiving Line @ Holy Cross

3:50 Drinks @ Brewery  w/Wedding Party

4:00 Social Hour @ Someplace Yummy

5:00 Wedding Party Arrives @ Someplace Yummy

6:00 Dinner

6:30 Speeches w/Best Man & Maid of Honor

6:45 Cake Cutting

7:00 First Dance

7:45 Father/Daughter Dance

7:50 Mother/Son Dance

8:20 Sunset Photos @ Outside w/Bride & Groom

9:00 Dollar Dance

9:30 Bouquet and Garter Toss

10:00 Grand Exit

Family Photos

1:00 Bride w/Parents

1:05 Bride & Groom w/Parents

1:10 Bride w/Siblings

1:15 Bride & Groom w/Siblings

1:20 Bride w/Grandparents

1:25 Bride & Groom w/Grandparents

1:30 Bride w/Someone

1:35 Bride & Groom w/Someone

1:40 Bride w/someone else

1:45 Groom w/Parents

1:50 Groom & Bride w/Parents

1:55 Groom w/Siblings

2:00 Groom & Bride w/Siblings

2:05 Groom w/Grandparents

2:10 Groom & Bride w/Grandparents

2:15 Groom w/someone

2:20 Groom & Bride w/someone

2:25 Groom w/Someone else


Want More?

Click the link below and I will email you the full PDF guide along with my shot list, a blank copy of my wedding day photography schedule!  And due to a couple disturbing news articles I have seen in the last few weeks I will also include my guide "Choosing the right photographer"  This guide is a must have!


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