As a wedding photographer, one of the most important aspects of my job is to ensure that the wedding day runs smoothly and that I am able to capture all of the special moments throughout the day. In this blog, I share some tips and tricks for creating a seamless wedding timeline that will make your day run smoothly and ensure you receive all the photos you deserve! I understand that planning a wedding can be overwhelming, and that's why I am here to help make the process a little bit easier. Believe me when I tell you that I've seen wedding days go off the rails all because of the most simple things taking much longer than anticipated - so we want to make sure we are prepared!
The best advice I can give you is to add some extra time here or there. The biggest delay often comes with hair and makeup or shuttles. Ask me when your hair and makeup needs to be finished, and then ask your hair and makeup artist what time you need to start to finish by the time I give you. For transportation, shuttles move way slower than normal cars. When looking at transportation, if bridesmaids and groomsmen are taking the same shuttle at separate times, it's probably a good idea to add an extra 20 minutes of time for roundtrip travel between drop-off and pickup.
If we do get behind, I'll help you try and compensate for that time in other areas to catch back up. There are so many different things to think about. It's inevitable something will not go as planned. I encourage you to just go with the flow and stay focused on the real reason you're having a wedding. It's not to have the most perfect day of all time where nothing goes wrong. Of course, that'd be nice. But it's really about you and your partner celebrating your love for one another!
Bride Getting Ready
Getting ready photos - the beginning of your wedding day story! I will typically start with the detail photos - this consists of images of your wedding dress and a top lay photo with some of your important wedding day items. Recommended items to have ready for the detail photos are your wedding rings, shoes, jewelry, invitations, and the bouquets. After that I'll photograph everything from candids to matching robe photos, and then, of course, the bride getting into her wedding dress!
Before you get in the dress, I'd highly recommend that all your bridesmaids and moms are dressed so that everyone is looking their best in the background of these photos. I'll be sure to tell you when and where you should get in your dress, and I will give you instructions on what to do and where to look while someone buttons/zips up the dress. The rooms of a home I will typically prefer to use as spaces for getting ready imagery are the master bedroom and/or the living room. Really, I am just looking for the room(s) with the biggest windows to get the best lighting! I always recommend trying to clean up the space beforehand when possible!
As a final important note, I highly recommend that you have makeup done prior to when I arrive. I typically recommend that you schedule your hair and makeup to be done 1.5 hours before you have to head out. This ensures some buffer time in case hair & makeup runs late (which it almost always does) and plenty of time for getting ready photos afterwards.
Groom Getting Ready
If you opted for a second photographer on your day, my second will be the one taking the groomsmen photos, if not I usually go to the grooms first.
Similarly to the bride, when photographing the groom getting ready we will typically start with a few detail photos. For the groom, this includes shoes, ties, watches, cufflinks, boutonnières, and anything else significant.
Speaking of boutonnières, they are often one of the biggest items to slow down the day. How you ask? Well, sometimes I get stuck as the ones pinning all the boutonnières on the groomsmen. It takes a lot of time pinning that many flowers to 10 different people. I recommend learning how to do it yourselves (YouTube is great), having someone you know that can pin these flowers to your lapel, or best of all - getting magnetic boutonnières. Yes, these are a thing and they are amazing!
Lastly, make sure you hand off all the rings to the bride or one of her bridesmaids before we show up for getting ready pictures. We want to make sure we have all three of the rings at the bride's place so we can photograph them all together. They're the number one item we're missing when we show up for getting ready and details photos - so I'll repeat that again: Give all three rings to your bride before the wedding day!
I always encourage having a first look when possible - not only is it a beautiful moment but it also has so many logistical benefits and makes the day so much more relaxing! If you are still not sure if you would like to have a first look, I encourage you to learn more in my blog, The Pros and Cons of Having a First Look on Your Wedding Day.
If you're having a first look I will find the perfect location for it and make sure it's private and as secluded as possible. I recommend we go right into the wedding party photos and couple portraits after the moment is complete. Family formals can also be done before the ceremony if that works best for your day!
It's time to get you married! Most ceremonies last 30 minutes with religious ceremonies usually being closer to one hour. Cherish these moments! Your ceremony comes and goes so quickly! Remember to smile as you walk down the aisle and stop halfway to give a long kiss - that way we have a large window to capture one of the most sought-after wedding photos! A long first kiss is definitely a good idea too! Lastly, when it comes to aisle walking speed, slower is better - that way we can get more images and I’m not running backwards!
Family photos typically happen immediately following the ceremony since all of your family is present by this time. If your having a first look, right before the ceremony is an option as well. I'll send a questionnaire before the wedding to collect the family formal list, among other things. I suggest keeping these photos of immediate family and grandparents. Photos with aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family are great to capture during the reception.
It's time to bring in the friends! If you're sharing in a first look, your wedding party photos will happen right after. We'll plan to photograph the entire group first followed by the bridesmaids and then the groomsmen. Once the bride and bridesmaids are done, they can all go into hiding to avoid being seen by guests. If you're not sharing in a first look, and the schedule is tight later on, I recommend we set aside some time to photograph the groomsmen and bridesmaids' group shots separately, preferably at the venue, prior to the ceremony. That way all we have to do afterwards is photograph the entire group.
All of the photos from the wedding day are important, but my real favourites almost always come from the time with just the two of you! These romantic portraits of just the two of you will be the images that hang in a frame over your bed, on your mantle, or on a canvas in your living room! For this brief moment in time, you will be alone with each other on the wedding day!
Couple Portraits are normally done right after the first look before the ceremony begins. If you're not interested in a first look then we will be sure to schedule enough time for these portraits after the ceremony. The lighting determines the location I'll shoot in, so most of the time I can't decide on the exact portrait locations until the wedding day itself.
Golden Hour Session
I also love doing a few portraits during "golden hour" just before sunset. This is when the light is low, soft, and the absolute best warm colour! If you are interested in doing this for your day, I will schedule a time to sneak you out of the reception for 10-20 minutes! You can determine the time of sunset for your day using the online tool linked here. Just keep in mind the ability for the session is completely dependent upon the lighting available on the day, and the scheduling of events during the reception, so unfortunately it isn't always possible.
At this point of the day, the timeline isn't as strict, especially if you have left enough buffer time later on in the night (I touch on this more in the next section!). During the reception, I do my best to just blend into the background and capture the moments as they happen. Key moments are usually entrances, speeches, cake cutting, and first dances. I'll check in with you from time to time to make sure everything is going great, and if you or your friends want any group photos.
Open Dance Floor
Time to party! I really love this part of the wedding day. If you invite me to dance along - I definitely will! Couples will usually lead guests into the open dance floor by starting off with the first dance and/or with parent dances. I encourage you to allocate 30-60 minutes of coverage for this portion of the day. Not just because dancing photos are the best, but also because it acts as a good buffer in case dinner runs late.
Sparkler grand exits can be super fun and make for stunning images! Although it is called a sparkler ‘exit’ you can do this at any time during the night. I usually recommend doing it just after the dancing has begun. I typically just recommend bringing your wedding party and immediate family outside for the images since it can be hard to corral super large groups. You'll get more images this way because you'll have the chance to walk through the sparklers a few times and get a few kissing shots in there. It's a win/win. Then you can go right back inside to enjoy the rest of your reception. And as a bonus tip, I recommend getting the medium to large-sized sparklers - that way they last longer and we have more time to get images!