Have you ever considered the intricacies of your wedding day timeline and the effect that they may have on your wedding day photos? Something as minute as the placement of one event in front of the other, or the difference in five minutes of planning can make all the difference in the world as it relates to your wedding day photos.
The biggest tip I can give you is just to make sure that you allow your photographer adequate time to capture all of the wonderful moments of your day. Do not nickel-and-dime them and expect them to make art of every single moment of your day in only four hours. If you will want your photographer to start with you getting ready and end with your grand exit, you will need a minimum of eight hours of coverage. In that, they will also need time to pivot for any unexpected changes or unforeseen circumstances.
Timeline Tips Every Bride Should Know
Here is a list of other pro tips that every bride should know and can help you achieve better wedding day photos.
- You should really consider hiring a wedding planner. They will take care of everything that goes foul on your wedding day without you even knowing it. And, they will be the official keeper of the timeline.
- If you don’t hire a wedding planner (and you really should), appoint a family member or bridal party member to be your official timeline manager. Someone besides you needs to be in charge of keeping the day on track.
- If there are children involved in your wedding day, make sure you plan around snack and nap times. Children need to be well-rested and fed to be at their best.
- If your hair and makeup artist asks for 45 minutes for each of the persons she will serve on your wedding day, give her an hour.
- In fact, pad the timeline with tiny little pockets of extra time here and there… an extra five minutes built into the schedule five or six times over the course of the day will save your sanity as opposed to creating a timeline so tight, nothing can go off course.
- Also, give your hair and makeup artist and every other vendor, and each VIP family member a copy of your official timeline. Give it to them a week before your wedding. This ensures everyone is on the same page, it answers all questions, and no one has to bother you for information.
- The bride should always be the last one to get hair and makeup done; however, she should always be ready at least 30 to 45 minutes before she is actually needed in the timeline (get into dress, first look, ceremony, etc.). When the bride is needed earlier in the day, bridesmaids can follow her in the timeline.
- If your ceremony and your reception will be in two different locations, make sure you map the traffic prior to your wedding day. Also make sure to double-check it within a few days of your wedding to make sure there are no new construction zones in your route.
- Keep your eye on a city or community calendar so you are aware if there are any special events that may also affect your travel.
- Have your personal details gathered and put into a box or bag. This makes it much easier and saves time when the photographer comes to take these detail shots.
- Schedule the details to be photographed when the details have been finished being put in place. Detail shots should be taken after all of the floral arrangements are in place, after all of the place settings are on the table, after all of the signs have been displayed, and every other detail is in place, including your cake. If not, you risk having incomplete detail shots or detail shots captured in completely different lighting scenarios. This will not look well in your wedding album.
- Be sure to include your entire paper suite in the details. Bring two complete sets for your photographer to photograph with the rest of your details. Two sets will allow them to photograph the front and the back at the same time.
- If you have a first look, make sure that is completed at least 45 minutes before your ceremony time. Scheduling it any closer to the wedding ceremony, forces unnecessary risks of your guests seeing you in your dress. They will begin arriving up to one hour prior to the ceremony. (Pro tip: Having a first look can allow you to enjoy up to 25% more of your reception time.)
- Immediately after your ceremony, make sure you and your groom have a place to get tucked away out of the sight of your wedding guests. In plain sight, your guests will stop to congratulate you and will not proceed to the cocktail or reception area and inadvertently cause delays in your timeline.
- You and your photographer should have compiled a list of every single family formal arrangement that you want captured. Your photographer should work from this list on your wedding day. Everyone who is included in one of these setups should be aware and notified prior to your wedding day when, where, and how this will take place. Without a formal plan, this part of the day can quickly go awry and it’s very easy to overlook taking an image of you with your brothers and sisters, for example, amidst all the chaos.
- If you have had a first look, these family formals can take place prior to the ceremony and you can now join the reception much sooner after you’ve said your I-dos.
- Talk to your officiant about immediately standing to the right or left of you after they have announced, “You may now kiss the bride.” Yes, I know it’s an awkward conversation to have, but I think it’s more awkward to have someone in your first kiss images two feet from your lips watching you kiss. Many times, the officiant’s eyes are just peering through some gap between you and your husband. Trust me on this. Clean shots are always better!
- Your timeline should include the time the sun will set.
- Always schedule your ceremony time so that it allows for a 30-minute creative session in the golden hour right before sunset. These are the images you will hang on your walls in your home, take to place on your work desk, and cherish forever.
- If your guests will arrive to the reception site ahead of your photographer, make sure you have a plan in place to keep your guests corraled just outside, or in a corner. This way, when your photographer does arrive, they can make quick work of capturing all of the reception details and getting clean, wide open shots without any of your guests in the background.
- Make sure your first dance happens either before dinner is served or after the tables have been cleared by the wait staff. Otherwise, you will have messy tables in the background of your images. (I prefer images with the tables still cleanly set.)
- Also, if you can, try to have a conversation with your family and your bridal party prior to your wedding day. Ask them to be fully present in all of the formalities of the wedding day (ie. the first dances, the speeches, the cake cutting… especially the first dances). There is nothing more displeasing to me than photographing this beautiful moment when the bride and groom are sharing their first dance and then the dance with their parent and no one is watching. Everyone is the background is talking to each other, looking away, and not involved at all in this beautiful moment. Sure. They’re there, but they’re not THERE. Have a short conversation with your key players and ask them to just please watch, and look, and smile, and seem interested while you dance… just for the photos. Explain that it is a request from your photographer. Your photographer will thank you.
- If, for some reason, you are going to shorten the length of your first dance song and fade out only 60 seconds in, let your photographer know that they only have 60 seconds to capture first dance images. I cannot tell you how many times I have been completely surprised by thinking I have about four minutes to work the dance floor only to be cut short by three whole minutes.
- Always ensure that your photographer is served dinner at precisely the same time you are. This may seem rude that a vendor is eating before some of your family and many of your guests; however, your photographer needs to be ready to go back to work as soon as you are finished eating.
- There is only so many dancing images a photographer can capture at your reception before they become a bit bored and the images become redundant (unless your party is lit!). However, a skilled photographer will get very creative with these shots if left to cover the reception for too long. They will experiment with multiple exposures, framing and unique compositions, longer shutter times and other creative lighting methods. Really consider how long you want your photographer to cover the dancing portion of your reception. Many couples have a fake send off in order to relieve the photographer of their duties before the real reception ends.
- If your photographer is staying until the very end, consider a private last dance. This is where all your guests wait for you outside for the grand exit, and you and your new husband enjoy one final dance on your wedding night in the complete privacy of your reception.
- Do not run through your grand exit! Walk slowly. Take your time and smile and laugh out loud! Stop halfway and kiss, twirl, wave, high-five, dip or dance.
- If you have a hired a getaway car, inform your photographer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve photographed a grand exit only to turn around and there be an extremely nice limo or antique Rolls Royce waiting to take the bride and groom away. Photographers need to be prepared to take these photos. If I don’t know, I will not have an extra speedlight that is not on the top of a 12-foot lightstand or I won’t have carried an LED light outside with me.
- Do have a conversation with your photographer about what happens on the night of your wedding if you’d like them to stay longer than your agreed to time. In fact, you should have this conversation with all your vendors.
Lastly, it’s your day and you can have it your way. However, while you are planning, if your images are important to you, always plan the timeline around the images you want to capture and not convenience, your family, or the extra two hours you may have to invest with your photographer.
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I am a WPPI-C certified professional wedding and senior photographer based in South Texas near San Antonio. I pride my business in offering a premier and personal service coupled with an unforgettable photography experience. I cater to clients who appreciate quality photography and help them to create family heirlooms that will last for generations. As a full-time professional photographer, my sole purpose is to provide amazing, memorable and full-service photography.
I started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. I enjoy documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I love being a part of people’s journey and consider myself privileged to document their legacies.
When I’m not photographing a wedding, family or high school senior, I love to spend my spare time hiking, camping, cycling, reading, listening to Elvis and Prince. The most important things in life are for me to see my two daughters happy and to create a family history my grandparents would be proud of!
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