HOW TO PLAN YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY TIMELINE (IF YOU'RE PLANNING TO DO A FIRST LOOK)
Your wedding is a busy day that will pass by in the blink of an eye. In this article, I will give you tips and ideas on how you can plan out your wedding timeline as it relates to photography lighting.
Below is a sample agenda if you're planning for a first look. While these are commonly used timeframes according to my experience, as always, consult with your event planner as each day is unique depending on traditions and events:
Getting ready: 1:30 pm
First look: 3:30 pm
Family photos: 4:00 pm
Ceremony details: 5:00pm
Ceremony: 5:30 pm
Cocktail hour : 6:00 pm
Reception: 7:00 pm
Bride + Groom Introduction: 7:10pm
First dance: 7:15 pm
Parent dances: 7:20 pm
Start dinner: 7:30 pm
Speeches: 8:15 pm
Dinner finishes: 8:30 pm
Cake cutting: 9:30 pm
Hora loca: 10:30 pm
Sparkler exit: midnight
Here's a more detailed timeline for reference:
1. Getting Ready
Time of day: Morning or Early Afternoon
Location: Hotel Suite or Private Residence
Time allotment: 1-2 hrs
My advice: It's necessary to have at least 1 hour allocated for the preparation, ideally 2 hours if you want images of the details such as the invitation suite, dress, shoes, veil, and jewelry. During this period, I'll capture candid moments, pictures of you getting dressed, and a few bridal portraits. One of my favorite moments is the first time the Mother-of-the-Bride sees her daughter in her dress. Here is a beautiful moment between Liz and mom.
If you've hired a second photographer, then my team will also snap images of the groom during this time.
2. First Look
Time of the day: Early afternoon
Location: Wedding Venue or Hotel
Time allotment: 30 mins-1 hr
The first look is when the bride and groom choose to see each other before the wedding ceremony. It can be a great time to shake out those nervous jitters ahead of time.
My advice: A first look has many positive benefits.
1. It is a rare quiet moment shared between the couple on an otherwise busy day.
2. It provides many couples with a sense of calm and reflects well in your images. I see a notable difference in the body language of couples before they see their partner (i.e. tense shoulders and stiff smiles), and after (i.e. relaxed and happy!).
3. By opting for a First Look, you will then also complete your couple, family and bridal portraits before the ceremony, which means, once the I Do's are said and done, then you can kick back and enjoy the party!
3. Family Portraits
Time of day: Early afternoon
Location: Hotel or Venue
Time allotment: 45 mins- 1 1/2 hr depending on the size of the family, and their willingness to collaborate
First, your photographer should guide you through creating shot list. Make sure it's organized and in written form.
Next, I like to assign what I call a "people wrangler." This person should know everyone on both sides of the family, and will mobilize and gather family members. It can be the Best Man, Maid of Honor, or any family member who has a loud voice and knows the extended family on both sides.
Finally, the day before the wedding, inform family members when and where you're going to take family portraits; it also never hurts to tell them to get ready 15 or 30 mins ahead of time! Quite frankly, family photos are the most stressful time of the day, and its best to get it out of the way before the ceremony.
Time of day: Late afternoon
Location: Church or Venue
Time allotment: Church (45 mins-1 hr); Outdoor Wedding (15 mins-30 mins)
As a client, it's essential to understand certain restrictions photographers may face depending on the rules of your ceremony site. Some churches don't allow photographers near or around the altar. These restrictions will depend on not only your venue, but also your officiant. It's critical for your photographer to introduce themselves to the officiant and ask them how they can best work together during the ceremony.
Plan on your photographer arriving 30 mins before the ceremony to capture all the details.
5. Cocktail hour
Time of day: Early Evening
Time allotment: 1 - 1.5 hours
If you've hired a second photographer, then he/she will be assigned to take images of the cocktail hour, including environment shots, details and party pics and candids of guests. During this time, I will capture the reception details and setting up lighting for the dancing portion of the night.
This is also a good time to capture images with friends who were not included in the family and wedding party shot list.
Time of day: Evening
Location: Ballroom or Outdoor Terrace
Time allotment: Several hours
Be sure to balance your budget with the timing of the formalities - meaning do you want your photographer to stay until the end of the reception, or, are you comfortable with him/her leaving after the first dance or cutting of the cake?
Here is a list of the most common formalities during the reception:
- Bride and Groom introduction
- First Dance
- Mother-Son Dance
- Father-Daughter Dance
- Maid of Honor and Best Man Speeches
- Parents Speeches
- Cutting of the Cake
- Hora Loca
- Sparkler Exit
Sit down ahead of time and determine which moments matter most, from there, you can establish your photographer's departure time. In the midst of all these events, my photographic team will capture those candid and fun party moments.