We are very hands-on when it comes to wedding day timelines, because after years of photographing weddings, we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to a timeline. This is your big day, and it may be the only time you’ve been the one at center stage being the bride and/or groom. Sure, you’ve attended weddings, maybe you’ve even participated in a wedding, but there’s a huge difference when it’s your day. A lot of planning and a lot of money went into the planning and coordinating of your day, and as your photographer we want to make sure we are able to create all of the images that will help tell the story of your day. Without a fluid timeline, we are pretty much going with the flow, and I promise you, this is not an efficient way of capturing a wedding day. **If you are reading this and do not have a photographer yet, whether you are looking into us or someone else, make sure that they will work with you on a very specific wedding day timeline. Otherwise, your photographer will not being to tell the story the way you might expect them to** Every year, we send out multiple emails to couples full of advice and suggestions for their wedding day timeline and every year these emails tend to get longer as we learn new and better ways to help with the flow of their big day. To save from a novel length email, I have decided to make a living blog full of suggestions and advice. I call it living because it will constantly be changing as we find new and better ways to help with the timeline! This blog will have everything from prep to reception. Soon, we’ll have a page up with even more help, but for now, I’ll provide a bit of reading material.
HERE WE GO….
Prep – Where should you get ready? This is something that’s never asked, but something I really like to bring up. Many churches or venues do not have dedicated bridal prep rooms, when they do, it’s great, but most will put you in a random room. We’ve had prep before in church nurseries, classrooms, hallways, dark basements, even a closet!! (seriously, a closet with enough room for a groom and me to take pictures) If your church or venue doesn’t have a dedicated prep room, my suggestion is to rent a hotel room or get ready at someone’s house that has lots of room. A hotel room, even a cheap small one looks MUCH better than a church nursery. Unless you like bright colors, drawings on the wall and bins full of toys in your pictures, having a room that feels more natural (like a hotel room or bedroom) looks so much better in pictures. Many hotels have small conference rooms you can rent out for very minimal as well. The great thing about hotel/conference rooms or houses is the natural light. In a church, there’s a chance that you are in middle of the building with nothing but fluorescent lighting above you, this is not very attractive lighting at all. It’s very much worth the $100-$200 (in my opinion) to have a better prep room available to you. Plus, this can help take away some stress because when you are at the church, there’s always the chance of many people asking questions about what should be wear, how do do what, etc. if you are at a hotel room with your girls, no one else can bother you.
We typically do not plan any formal images before the ceremony (unless you see each other beforehand) because it’s easier to do them afterward, no one is required to show up super early because of this, thus helping save anyone showing up late. They are of course there after the ceremony. So during this time, kick back and relax. Expect the unexpected <— this is a big one! If absolutely nothing goes wrong, great! If there’s a small hiccup, you’re ready for it. DO NOT TRY AND DO IT ALL YOURSELF. This is the most important advice I share, because if you try and take on fixing everything yourself, you will get stressed. This happens at almost every wedding. Weddings tend to have a few hiccups: things/people run behind, or someone forgets something, loses something, etc. Utilize those around you to take care of things (bridesmaids, parents, even we are happy to help with whatever we can).
During this time, we have a rule for pictures; if you spent money on it, we are taking a picture of it. 🙂 So any jewelry, shoes, accessories, flowers… have them ready for us to take pictures of. I know these pictures seem kind of simple and not needed, but after your big day, those things may be gone forever, so it’s nice looking back on them. Trust me, we don’t have any detail pictures, and we can’t remember what many of our details looked like, and those were a big part of our budget. Make sure the rings are with you and the girls at the beginning. This saves a lot of time because then we don’t have to track down the rings from the guys and a ring from you. We’ll give the ones needed to the guys after we are finished.
Post Ceremony – If we haven’t already, after your exit we will immediately get inside to do family formals. HAVE A LIST OF FORMAL IMAGES YOU WANT PRIOR TO THE WEDDING. This is my biggest advice for family formals. If you have a list, this saves a lot of time because it never fails, if there’s not a list, there will be someone suggesting pictures you should take with folks, and you probably won’t say no, because the person is standing right there in front of you thinking you want a picture with them. Making a list is as simple as B&G with bride’s parents, B&G with groom’s parents, Groom with brothers, and so on. Or you can get specific and make a bullet list of names, this way we can just yell out names of people to come up for pictures.
Outdoor Pictures – This is the time in which we are able to produce the images you have probably seen us post quite a bit. To do this, we need the time to be able to do so. There are times where we have just 15 minutes or so to do wedding party images and pictures of the bride and groom and in this short amount of time, we are not able to produce the quality of imagery that you have probably seen us share on social media, our blog, website, etc. So, how much time do we need? At minimum we like to have an hour. This provides us more than enough time to travel to a couple of locations and between loading up, unloading, and driving, this can easily be 15-30 minutes. How can we better utilize this time to allow for more pictures? We typically start with pictures of the wedding party. A couple full group and a handful of images of the guys and a handful of the ladies. After that, it’s all about the couple. The reason we do it this way is, this allows your transportation (if you have it) to take your wedding party away while we do pictures of the two of you. Trust me, every couple that does it this way, LOVES it. It’s a more intimate setting for you two and takes a little stress of your shoulders not having to hear your wedding party ask how much longer it’ll be. You’ll be reconnected soon enough, but this allows us a quiet time to produce some amazing images. Sometimes this isn’t possible, whether it be the distance needed to travel between ceremony/reception, places to go, or traffic. This isn’t a problem, often times we’ll let the wedding party hang out with the transportation and we will walk with you two away to produce the images you want.
Reception – This is the area where we might have the most suggestions because it’s at this stage in the wedding where we can be nearing the end of our timeline, and if things are handled in a smooth way, you may find yourselves doing your first dance after many guests have already left… yep, this has happened too! First and foremost, hire a DJ that will work with you to coordinate your reception. It’s kind of unfortunate, but a good DJ, I feel like can easily become forgotten because the reception will go by so smooth and afterward, your guests will remember the fun time they had, but may not remember who helped it run so smooth. But a bad DJ will be remembered and talked about for years to come. Unfortunately, we have worked with quite a few bad DJs. Remember earlier, I talked about the first dance happening after guests had already left? That was a bad DJ.
After you’ve chosen a great DJ that will work with you two to ensure a smooth reception, we have some suggestions that we have seen that can really help the flow of the reception and help save as much time as possible for fun pictures after the reception formalities. I’ll put these in list form below:
- Cut the cake immdiately after entering your reception hall. Doing this allows for a very smooth transition into your guests getting cake/dessert after the meal and helps ensure that they won’t be walking behind you in your first dance pictures because you cut the cake right before the first dance.
- Do the toasts before the meal. Doing this allows for more time for you two to mingle with guests after dinner. Regardless of when you do toasts, chances are you will mingle with guests after you two eat anyway. If toasts are after the meal, there’s an awkward transition into getting the wedding party back to the head table to do the toasts. At this point, many wedding party members have ventured away and this can easily add 10+ minutes to your reception time.
- Do all your formalities one right after the other. First dance, Parent dances, Anniversary Dance, even garter/bouquet toss (if you do them). Do these right away, because immediately following the last one, you can get to the open dancing. Most DJs do not do this, they like to spread it out. One DJ told me that he spreads it out like this to make his job easier because he doesn’t have to plan as much open dancing songs. Some couples still do a dollar dance, if you are doing this, do this after a few fast open dancing songs. This way we can ensure we have the time in our wedding day timeline to get the reception formalities and some fun open dancing pictures and/or video.
As I mentioned, this blog will be living. I know there is more I will be including soon, but this is a start. Ultimately, it’s your day. Many couples will stress over sticking with tradition or doing things because it’s what their parents, friends, relatives did in their wedding. Natasha and I did this, many of the things we did at our wedding happened because we didn’t know we could do them any other way. Make it your day, don’t worry about what others will think why you did things this way or that, if they don’t like it, they can do it differently on your day. I think of it like this, growing up when I would get a burger from anywhere it was always ketchup only, I never ordered any other way because it’s all I knew. One day, I forgot to say ketchup only and I got a burger with everything. I decided I’d eat it, it wasn’t their fault, it was mine for not asking. I took a bite and was taken to a whole new world. I was missing out on so much taste! Can you tell I’m writing this blog around lunch time? If you want to wear a colored dress and not a white one, go for it. If you want to see each other before the ceremony, do it! If you want to completely change your reception and not do introductions of your entire wedding party and just want to introduce yourselves, absolutely go for it.
Okay, so that last one may be just my wish for reception, but picture it. Rather than doing the typical party music and the DJ introducing every wedding party member (even though most of the guests don’t know who they are but clap for them as if they won the championship game), the DJ introduces just you two as the newlyweds and instead of party music, it’s your first dance song. You enter the reception hall and immediately go into your first dance. After the dance, you kiss, walk to the cake table, cut the cake, and immediately following that you do the toasts and go into your meal. After the meal, it’s nothing but a celebration the rest of the evening. I suggest this all the time, but it’s never happened, so I’m putting out there publicly and hoping maybe it’ll catch on. 🙂