You spend so much time planning all the beautiful details of your wedding: your dress, the center pieces, the flowers, the bridesmaids dresses and jewelry, and so much more. It is also important to take a moment while planning your amazing wedding to consider the time line of your wedding day. Yes, you will start your hair at 9:00, your ceremony will begin at 2:00, and your meal will be served at 5:30. But what about the important moments in between?
It is important to take a moment to consider how your day will unfold. Having a time line planned prior to the wedding helps to keep everyone and everything organized, as well as letting everyone from your family and bridal party to your vendors know what to expect. To help give you some tips and ideas to assist your planning, here are a few things to think about in regards to your wedding day photography:
Getting ready - If you choose to have this portion of your wedding day photographed, have your photographer arrive at the salon or room where you're getting ready towards the end of hair and make up. This allows them to capture the finishing touches, such as the veil being placed and your reaction to seeing yourself as a bride for the first time. During this time your photographer can also capture beautiful shots of your dress before you put it on and detail shots of your accessories. These images are a beautiful way to tell your story, show your all of your hard work and attention to detail, and make beautiful additions to your wedding album. Your photographer can also head over to where the groom and his guys are getting ready. Truthfully, guys get ready in less than ten minutes since their wedding day attire is pretty straight forward and doesn't involve hair and make up. This is a wonderful opportunity to capture the guys relaxing together, the finishing touches as they put on their ties and button their cufflinks, and details of tuxes.
The "first look" - I love first looks! I think it is one of the most special moments on a wedding day. I understand the tradition of not seeing each other before the wedding and that decision rests entirely in your hands. From my experience, the most emotional reactions have been during a "first look" moment, a moment away from the rest of the hustle and bustle of the wedding day. A first look is a beautiful moment alone together, where you can whisper words of "I love you," embrace each other, share laughter and emotions, and just be in the moment together.
Have your photographers on hand to capture that magical moment. You will be so happy you did. The smiles on your faces and happy tears on your cheeks will bring joy to your heart for a lifetime to come. When planning a "first look" give yourself about 20 minutes so you have a few minutes alone and do not feel rushed. You should be completely in the moment and not worried about making sure you get to the next event. After your first look, I highly recommend starting your formal portraits together while you still are filled with emotion and are glowing with excitement.
Formal portraits - Formal portraits are an important part of your wedding day to think about. These images are of the most important people in your lives, your family and bridal party. I suggest making a list of important people who need to be involved in the formal portraits. This will ensure everyone who needs to be there knows, as well as help the portraits flow quicker. I recommend planning three minutes per grouping. That allows time to get everyone lined up and looking their best. If you are doing formal portraits before the ceremony, you will want to be finished with the formal session 30-45 minutes before the ceremony begins to ensure you are hidden, the photographer has time to clear their lights and equipment out of the way, and gives you a little time to relax before guests arrive and the ceremony begins.
If you are not seeing each other before the ceremony, I recommend doing some of your formal portrait groupings before the ceremony. Start with the groom and his groomsmen, then portrait of him with his family. After he is hidden away again, the bride and her maids, followed by her family. This shortens the list of important shots to take following the ceremony and helps cut down on the down time between the ceremony and reception for guests. Again, plan on being out of the ceremony area 30-45 prior to the ceremony beginning. Following the receiving line, have everyone gather again to finish the formal portraits. Be sure to clearly communicate to everyone who is part of the formal portraits that they need to be there and ready to go. It is impossible to get photographs with someone who isn't there because they have already left for the reception.
Ceremony - Let your photographer know about how long your ceremony will be. It's also important to let them know what events (i.e. roses for the moms, sand ceremony, unity candle, etc) will be going on. Also, be sure to let your photographer know of any church/location restrictions. Often time there are not any restrictions regarding photography, but if there are it is important to communicate those to your photographer. Nothing is worse than a ceremony stopping because an officiant is upset with a photographer (YouTube has many examples of this and it always makes me cringe when I see them). As a photographer, I always want to get amazing shots for my couples, but I also want to show my complete respect for the ceremony and not be intrusive. If there is somewhere I can't go or something I cannot do while photographing a ceremony, it's nice to know in advance to I can have a plan before the ceremony begins.
Receiving line - Set aside time for a receiving line. So often this is overlooked. It takes a while to greet all of your guests following the ceremony, whether you do so by ushering them out of the ceremony yourselves or by having a receiving line outside of the ceremony. Be sure to plan 15-20 minutes (or more if you have a large guest list) for hugs and warm wishes with your guests as they exit the ceremony.
Post ceremony - I love post ceremony portraits. It is a wonderful opportunity to stop by a variety of locations to get some more fun and relaxed portraits of you as a couple, as well as with your bridal party. As fun as bars are, they generally don't make for a great portrait location. Just something to keep in mind. Local parks, museums, downtown areas, and locations that are special to you are some great options for portraits after the ceremony. I suggest you try to keep it under two hours so guests are not kept waiting. If you are planning a long post-ceremony time, consider having a cocktail hour and hors d'oeuvres for your guests. Another important thing to think about when planning for post-ceremony portraits is your travel time. If it takes you 30 minutes to drive between the ceremony and reception, then be sure to factor that into your time line.
Reception - The ceremony and portraits are over and the celebration has begun. Consider keeping big events to the beginning so all guests are present, often bouquet tosses done later in the evening may result in less single ladies to catch it. Plan to have your photographer eat while you are eating so they can be ready to go as soon as you are done. Also, don't seat them away from the reception. It's pretty much impossible for them to capture an image of you kissing after the glasses begin "tinking" if they are in a room down the hall (trust me, I've been there and it was a challenge).
Sunset - Golden hour is the most beautiful time of day; filled with warm, rich light and beautiful sunset colors. Plan a few moments to steal away for photos during the sunset. They are magical and you will love them! These don't need to take long, but you will be so glad you did them.
I hope these suggestions have helped you get a better idea as you plan your wedding day! For more ideas and planning tips be sure to check out our other planning articles: