There’s nothing better than a stress-free wedding day when everything runs on time, people are ready to take pictures when you need them, and you have creative freedom to do your job well.
Can I get a ‘fo-sho’ from my wedding peeps out there?
And you know what the best part is?
There’s a lot that you can do as a photographer to make sure that these kinds of wedding days happen more often than not, which is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
In fact, the photographer and the wedding coordinator have the most control over how a wedding day is run, which means two things:
- You get to create the best photography schedule to help make YOU successful.
- You need to create the best photography schedule to help make the WEDDING successful.
In other words, we need to set ourselves up for success with every wedding we shoot, because it is our job to create the best wedding day experience we possibly can for our couples and their families.
After years of shooting weddings of all shapes and sizes, we’ve fine-tuned a schedule that has become our foundation for every wedding we shoot.
This schedule changes, of course, based on the unique logistics of a particular wedding day, but the real value of this schedule isn’t so much the exact timing as it is the principles behind the timing – giving ourselves time and space to photograph what we need to and when.
Alright, let’s get on to the nitty-gritty.
Below is our basic schedule that we use for every wedding.
As I mentioned, every wedding is different, but this is the kind of schedule we always shoot for.
- 12:00 Getting Ready & GR Details
- 12:45 All Hair and Makeup Finished (HARD STOP)
- 1:00 Dress On; Final Touches
- 1:30 First Look; Bride and Groom Portraits
- 2:30 Wedding Party
- 3:00 Family Portraits
- 3:30 Break / Details, Details!
- 4:00 Ceremony Begins
- 4:30 Ceremony Ends
- 4:40 The Couple (Gravy Time!)
- 5:10 Couple Joins the Cocktail Hour
- 5:30 Grand Entrance to Reception
We always give ourselves plenty of time to shoot getting ready details such as jewelry, the shoes, the dress, cufflinks, makeup being done, etc.
We don’t want to feel rushed, so we build that time into the schedule.
We also schedule a specific time for the dress to go on, and we allow at least 30 minutes for this.
This helps the makeup artists, hair stylists, Mom, and bridesmaids know when they need to be done, dressed, and ready (and allows for a cushion if they run late).
It won’t take 30 minutes to put on most dresses, but it allows the bride to relax while she puts on her dress, slips on jewelry, hugs her mom, and laughs with her bridesmaids.
Plus, we get to spend a few minutes photographing just her before heading out for the First Look.
The First Look
Again, we schedule a specific amount of time for this. This means we can let the couple relax and enjoy hanging out with each other for fifteen minutes, and then we can grab all of our “have-to-have” shots just after (ie couple looking at the camera, individual portraits, bouquet, boutonnière, etc).
We capture so many candid, emotional moments during the First Look simply because we allow time for the couple to relax, feel their emotions, talk about the day, and live in the moment.
Also, if worse comes to worse and things ran late during the getting ready process, we don’t need to use the full amount of couple time – we have also scheduled some time after the ceremony.
We can relax through the first look, grab a few portraits, and just move right into the wedding party and make up some time.
After we shoot 30 minutes of the wedding party, we move into 30 minutes of family portraits.
Doing the family portraits BEFORE the ceremony accomplishes a number of things:
- There are no distractions so we can move quickly (no pulling people from the black hole that is the cocktail hour)
- We save that amazing light after the ceremony for just the couple
- The family can immediately enjoy the cocktail hour and greet their wedding guests right after the ceremony.
Believe me, family portraits used to be the most stressful part of the day for us, and now it’s one of the most relaxing and stress-free portions of our job!
Once we’re done with family, it’s time to hide the couple away as wedding guests start to arrive.
The half an hour before the ceremony is the best time to capture all of the wedding details, and we work with our couple, the coordinator, and the catering manager to make sure that everything is completely set up at this time.
This is the only way we’re able to capture as many details as we do – we make them a priority and we schedule time specifically for this purpose.
Of course, if the ceremony and reception are at different locations, then we make sure that the details are ready to be photographed during the cocktail hour and that guests are held back until we’ve been able to capture everything.
Once the ceremony is over, it’s time for the fun part!
Because we’ve taken all of the necessary “have-to-have” images before the ceremony, everything we take during this time is just gravy – and boy is it good gravy!
The light will be beautiful, the couple is excited, and we can relax and get into the groove of shooting.
Normally we only need to shoot for about half of the cocktail hour, and then the couple can choose to join their guests– and enjoy those specialty cocktails and appetizers that they picked out – or hide away and spend some time with each other before the craziness of the reception.
I can’t think of a better way to enjoy your wedding day!
This type of schedule has brought us amazing results – not only are we shooting according to the best light of the day, but we’re allowing for vendors or people that may run late.
Again, every wedding has different logistics, but these are the basic guidelines that we strive for.
And make sure to grab your copy of our Wedding Day Schedule to use at your next wedding. Then let us know how it goes in the Facebook Group!