When you’re making your wedding planning timeline, one of the things you really need to consider is how much time you need for taking wedding photos.
Because working your wedding photos into your wedding schedule isn’t something you do “in between” other events, like something you squeeze in. Like anything else it needs a proper time to do. Your wedding photography sessions are an event unto themselves.
When wedding couples ask me about a wedding planning timeline regarding their wedding photography schedule, they tend to underestimate how long it may take to get their photography done. Maybe it’s because everyone’s experience of taking their own photos makes them believe photos are snapped in a second, but that’s only true about their photos.
The best wedding photographers are going to put a little bit more time and effort into some of the wedding photos, such as with the family wedding photos and bridal party photos, such as when setting up the group into a pleasing composition.
What makes their photos great is all about what goes into their wedding photo before the shutter’s clicked. The triggering of the shutter is the least of the time involved.
And if it’s a more candid or photojournal type of wedding coverage you want, then there’s the factor of allowing real moments to happen. And they can’t be forced to happen, dictated by the hands on a clock.
You also have to factor in how weddings often don’t run on time, how people can quite easily and unknowingly slow down the schedule, and how life just has a funny way of doing its own thing on its own timeline. Delays come from all sorts of points during the wedding day you’d never think of. Such is life!
So the problem with underestimating the time needed or even worse, not even having a wedding photography timeline at all (which The Knot calls the “Number One Wedding Photography Mistake”), is that you can end up rushing through getting your photos done, not enjoying your day as much, adding to the stress and not getting the kind of photos you wanted or even all the photos you wanted.
So here’s how to figure a wedding photography schedule that will work for you.
And we’re going to make it stress free and relaxed for EVERYONE. Yay!
We’re going to arrange it so the wedding couple get to enjoy their day fully. All right!
We’re going to get the best wedding photos this way too. Oh my God, that’s simply amazing!
Just so you know, neither your caterer, your officiant, your hair and makeup artist, your florist and certainly not your bridal gown designer is going to give you the following really helpful advice about scheduling your wedding day so you may want to bookmark this post.
First thing is to get away from thinking weddings run on exact timing because they don’t. They just don’t. And so if you think scheduling photos with Aunt Jane, Uncle Bill and the cousins from 1:00 to 1:02 is actually going to happen at 1:00… and take exactly two minutes… at which time the next group will immediately be photographed… you’re tempting Murphy’s Law to mess up your wedding timeline, my friend. If you think your ceremony is actually going to start at 3:00 on the dot… that you’ll make your reception entrance exactly at 7, that the toasts will be given exactly at 7:12, even if that’s what they’re promising you… you may end up frustrated. And you don’t want to feel frustrated on your wedding day.
What happens that causes delays on a wedding day? I’ll tell you: everything.
I’m sure you’ve heard how minutes slip by very fast and the day becomes a blur. Five minutes turns into twenty minutes very quickly on a wedding day so the issue with scheduling as tightly as that is of course when inevitably there’s something which causes a delay, even the smallest thing, then the Butterfly Effect kicks in and the entire schedule falls like a tipped over stack of dominoes. That is, until it crushes against the iron-clad wall of the caterer who must have the guests seated and serve the food on time lest the dinners get ruined. Ka-runch.
And typically, it’s your photography sessions which get squeezed. It’s the photography sessions which becomes the sacrificial lamb getting its time cut to make up for delays, interruptions and other events taking longer than expected.
So it’s not about the exact time on the face of the clock that makes a wedding planning timeline work but more about the ideas here I’ve gleaned from experience photographing hundreds of weddings that will keep things humming along merrily on your wedding and minimize compromising your wedding photography. That’s what I’d like you to take away from this as you map out your wedding planning timeline.
The keys to scheduling a smart wedding photography timeline is to:
Here’s 7 of the biggest tripper uppers and tips to help you with them:
We’re completely dependent on other people’s cooperation to get the family and bridal party photo sessions done. So when it comes to your family wedding photos and bridal party photos, here’s some tips:
#1: People have to wait on you, not the other way around (after all, it’s your wedding day, not theirs)
Your wedding has its own schedule to keep to and can’t be held up for any one person. And…
#2: Know that one person can (and will) hold up everything.
#3: The earlier in the day you get the family wedding photos, bridal party photos, the wedding couple portraits – in other words all the wedding portraits, the better.
This avoids several things: By not being pulled out of your wedding reception for portraits, you won’t miss moments of your party, moments that you’ll never get back. Leaving your wedding reception also disrupts your wedding reception timeline and the momentum of your party. What kind of a party is it when its hosts aren’t there, right?
Plus you and others in the photos will look more pristine in your close ups than later after everyone’s been dancing, drinking and getting hugged and kissed.
#4: Give everyone a somewhat earlier start time then what you’ve actually scheduled with the wedding photographer. If you plan on taking the family groups at 3 for example, tell them 2:30. DON’T let on it’s actually set for 3 but that they should arrive earlier because then that will defeat the purpose and they’ll arrive late thinking they actually have until 3:00 to show up. It’s always better that they wait a few minutes for you rather than you and everyone else who’s ready to wait minutes for them.
Whatever schedule you set, you need to inform the requested people prior to the wedding day as to where and when they need to be so they’ll be in place. Don’t assume they will. People have a tendency not only to be late, but to run off somewhere.
This is one area where many couples think this advice doesn’t apply to them because of their particular wedding day circumstances, but don’t think that! I’ve had couples assure me how people will be in place because they’re sleeping over or all arriving on the same bus – and it still goes awry simply because those folks didn’t know there was a plan in place.
#5. Speaking of scheduling, it gets tight and more hectic when other events are scheduled for the same time. For example, if you’re doing the family portrait sessions during your cocktail hour, know that you’ll likely be impacted heavily by the cocktail hour events itself and actually have much less time in front of the camera than an actual hour due to the typical interruptions and delays that will definitely happen from wait staff interrupting to take your drink orders and then interrupting again to serve them, from family and guests who want to congratulate you, to the DJ who wants a few minutes to review his timeline with you, to the Banquet Manager who wants to show you your room before it opens to the guests.
Because of the higher stress on the couple to get their photos done in that compressed time and with all the interruptions causing these delays, typically, their expressions aren’t as relaxed and warm as when photographed prior to the ceremony. Portraits taken before the ceremony tend to capture you two in a more relaxed and emotional mood rather than after the ceremony when you feel rushed and hectic.
Because of that, many wedding couples opt to do their photo sessions before the ceremony. In those cases, you’ll need to give everyone involved a somewhat earlier starting time for their sessions, like half an hour earlier, just to build in some extra buffer and to make extra sure they’re ready on time. Otherwise, they may sincerely assure you they’ll be on time, but all good intentions aside, one wrong exit taken off the highway, a snag in the dress, a car problem, the hair’s not quite right, traffic delay encountered, any unforeseen interruption at all… or just things taking longer than they thought to get ready and out the door – anything may and will delay them, even if they’re on the same floor of the same hotel or if you’re sending a car or bus for them.
Simply put, when one person’s not ready, it holds up everything.
#6: Schedule all preparations to be completed BEFORE your photography start time.
Start hair and makeup earlier by giving your stylists a deadline that’s one hour before the actual time they recommended. They tend to want to get your hair and makeup perfect, which is great and commendable, but when that goes longer than anticipated and impacts your timing, that’s the bad part we want to avoid.
Don’t rely on your ladies for a ride back from the salon on the wedding day. Have your own car so you don’t get delayed if your ride gets held up because your bridesmaid is having a bad hair moment.
Same goes for the groom if he’s expected to arrive prior to his family, but he’s getting a ride with his family. There should be a backup in case someone holds him up.
When florists run late, they always say “we’re on the way!” They’re making deliveries on a route that’s more a priority for them than you, and I understand that. They have to expedite those deliveries out. So you may as well just have them deliver earlier, so if they run late, they don’t hold you up.
The ladies (except for the bride) and parents should be present and dressed before the photography start time. This way when the bride’s ready, so is everyone else. That completely avoids photos of your parents and bridesmaids seeing you in the your gown for the first time and getting their great reactions – while they’re in hair curlers, undershirts and slips.
Even if you’ve scheduled buses and cars to pick up key people, one person not ready can hold up the entire car/bus load. Cars and busses can also get caught in traffic, drive slow, break down or make a wrong turn and cause delays. The cure? Buffer sufficient time.
#7: Here’s what Emily Post says is how to move your receiving line along gracefully.
It’s the second biggest time-user-upper where we easily can get way behind. Anyone getting into conversations on the receiving line will cause delays, so everyone on the receiving line needs to keep it moving. Otherwise I’ve seen where even small reception lines go as long as forty five minutes. That’s a ton of time on a wedding day.
Here’s how to handle the line gracefully: Each person briefly thanks the guest for coming and then moves them along by introducing them to the next person on the receiving line by saying “Have you met my (husband/wife/mother/father etc.)?”
And at the end of your wedding day, if you and your wedding photographer work out a smart wedding photography timeline like this, you won’t even notice the bumps in your day. That’s how smooth a timeline for wedding photos like this works.
(Want to find out more? Contact me here.)
**G.E. Masana (portrait artist and Huffington Post contributer) As Seen In HUFFINGTON POST | MARTHA STEWART WEDDINGS | THE KNOT | NEW YORK MAGAZINE | BRIDAL GUIDE | BRIDES | STYLE ME PRETTY | ELEGANT BRIDE | GRACE ORMONDE | WELLWED | TOWN&COUNTRY **
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