Timelines. It’s the least glamorous part of weddings, but it’s the glue that holds the whole thing together. When we first started shooting weddings, we were almost always left out of the timeline planning process and it made for a more stressful day. We found that time for portraits was often an afterthought and we were left scrambling for enough time.
During weddings, I’m like a duck calm on the surface but kicking like crazy underneath. In my mind, the clock is ticking. I know, even without looking at a clock, how much time I have left before we have to head back or move on to the next thing. If the makeup runs late, I’m the one who has to make magic with a fraction of the time that I used to have. If the timeline is mess or doesn’t have any wiggle room then any delay or problem can throw a wrench into the whole day.
Here, then, is a list of tips and things to consider with regards to photography that will help the day run smoothly:
- The timeline is a guide, a living document that needs to be flexible. The only things set in stone, typically are the ceremony start time and the end time of the reception.
- Always include your photographer in the timeline planning process. We will know what’s the best time for portraits, how long things will take. Use our expertise to your benefit.
- Think about how you want your day to unfold. It’s easy to get caught up in all the details when there are so many to worry about in a wedding day, but think of the big picture: the experience that you want your guests to have and that you want to have with your significant other.
- Always overestimate how long things will take by about 10 minutes. That way each event has a built in time cushion. Things run late, the weather takes a turn for the worse; you need to have some flexibility so that you can make adjustments if and when something unexpected comes up.
- Work backwards. Take the ceremony time and work backwards from there to figure out when you need to have transportation pick you up, when you have to make makeup and hair done, when you need to be dressed and ready to go, etc.
- Finishing touches take a while. Getting in to your dress, putting on jewelry, the veil, etc. takes about 20/25 minutes. You don’t want to rush this part of the day. We like to take portraits during this time before the chaos so try to make it so that this is a calm moment instead of a rushed blur.
- Make sure you let us know about the other events of the evening: Introductions, First Dance, cake cutting, sparkler sendoff, etc. so that we can be ready and so that nothing is missed.
- Feed us. We are all day photographers so we are with you every step of the way and most days our only real meal is dinner. We make get fed at every wedding but most times, the timing of when can be an issue. If possible, we like to eat when the couple eats so that when the toasts, or dancing starts, we are ready and raring to go.
- Communicate. Don’t be afraid to tell us of important moments or things that you want to photograph. One example is a bride of ours who designed her own invitations. Of course, we were going to shoot the invitations but knowing that she made them made it more of a priority. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. The more we know, the better.
- Know the rules. Though we like to make sure of it myself, it always helps when our couples let us know of the venue or church rules ahead of time. Yes, it’s our job to do my due diligence to make sure that we are not violating any rules when we are shooting, it helps when our couples give us a heads up if they are aware of any rules.
How long do things take?
Getting Ready: It typically takes about 20/25 minutes to get into your dress and put on the finishing touches. We like to show up about an hour and a half to two hours before we have to leave for the ceremony or first look. Know what time you want to be at the ceremony and then work backwards from there.
Pre-Ceremony Pictures: These include individual portraits, bridesmaids and groomsmen pictures as well as individual pictures of couple with their respective parents. This takes about 20/30 minutes. This can happen after the first look but if you are not having a first look then these portraits happen after you are dressed and before you head to the ceremony.
First Look: I talk about first looks in THIS post. If the ceremony starts or ends at night, then a first look is a great option so that you can make the most of natural light during portraits. From our experience, weddings with a ceremony at night leave the least amount of time for portraits (if the couple doesn’t do a first look) since it only leaves about an hour (typically during the cocktail hour) for portraits including family, wedding party and the couple portraits. A first look helps bypass the stress and gives the couple time to either join cocktail hour or spend some downtime together before the reception. I like to allocate 15/20 minutes for the first look. The actual seeing each other doesn’t take long but coordinating getting to the first look location can take a little while.
Couple’s Portraits: Portrait time varies by wedding and whether couples will see each other before the ceremony during a first look. I like to have at minimum 30 minutes for just the couple, though I average about 45 minutes. Try not to cut this time short. This is one of the only times where you will be alone during the wedding day so don’t rush it. Enjoy this time together and give us the chance to take pictures that will last beyond a lifetime. We also like to scout locations beforehand so we know where to go and don’t waste time trying to find good locations.
Family Portraits: We insist on getting a family group list in advance of the wedding day so that we can ensure no one is forgotten. We like to keep this to about 20/25 minutes. One way we do that is to keep it to 6-8 groupings if possible. For extended family, we recommend combined, larger groups instead of small individual groups. You want to keep this short and enjoyable so that guests can move on to the rest of the celebration. We also recommend you inform the guests who will be photographed where they need to be and when they need to be there.
Wedding Party: This depends on the size of the group but usually we keep this to 20 minutes. If bridesmaids and groomsmen pictures happen before the ceremony, then this time is just for the whole group together. Be sure to include flower girls and ring bearers.
What can be gleaned from all this information? The more you communicate with us, the more that you are aware of what it’s going to take to make your day run smoothly, the easier our jobs will be to tell your story.
Currently Listening to: Twister because my love of disaster movies knows no bounds.