Most couples have never planned a wedding before, and don’t know where to begin when it comes to getting great wedding photos. I offer my clients a lot of advice based on managing their photo-related timeline on my extensive experience. As you begin to think about your wedding day, and when to get great photos, here are some tips for planning your timeline.
1. “Getting Ready” pictures are fun – within reason.
The hours before the actual wedding – zipping up the dress, tying ties, putting on jewelry and cuff links – can provide lots of sweet photos. And yet, there will be lots more great moments to come! I advise clients to allocate only about 30-45 minutes of our time together for “getting ready photos”, so that we can capture some of those last minute details, excitement, and anticipation, and then move onto even more photo-worthy events of the day.
2. Consider taking formal pictures ahead of time.
Many couples still treasure the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony. But if you and your fiancée are flexible, consider taking your formal pictures FIRST – before any tears have been shed, while your hair and makeup are fresh and when you’re not rushed. Doing formals first is a great icebreaker and ensures that you can enjoy every moment of the cocktail party!
3. Make sure you carve out time for you and your sweetie to take pictures – alone.
Obligatory formal portraits are a must, but don’t forget to carve out at least 20 minutes for you and your sweetie to be photographed without family hovering in the background. You can do this during the formal pictures time, or you can step out during the reception. One way or another, find a quiet place where you can be alone (with your photographer, of course) and where you can let your guard down and enjoy each other. Those are the sweetest pictures and the ones you will treasure the most.
4. Allocate about an hour for formal pictures.
With plenty of careful planning (see below), I can get through clients’ formal family photos in no time at all. That said, though, I hate to be rushed through the family photos! Allocating an hour for formal photos allows time for people who are running late, gives us time to move to a new location if something changes, and ensures we don’t have to rush. My rule of thumb is 30 minutes for family photos, 10 minutes for wedding party photos, and 20 minutes for couple photos.
5. Plan out your formal family pictures ahead of time.
To help make formal pictures go smoothly, plan them carefully. A month before the wedding, sit down with your fiancée (and your parents, too, if you can stand it) and make a list of every combination of family to be photographed. For example: “Matt and Sarah with Matt’s parents…Matt with his parents…Matt with his brothers…Sarah with her sisters…Sarah with Aunt Judy…” Line by line, this will make formal picture time a breeze and you won’t have to make any decisions in the moment. I offer my clients templates and plenty of consultations to make sure this list is detailed, comprehensive, and well organized.
6. Dance together!
The first dance and parent dances make for tender, loving photographs and work best when the two people are dancing close together. I love photographing the quiet interactions as people dance with each other. My advice: Dance close. Look into each other’s eyes. Laugh. And try not to talk too much.
7. Use dinnertime as photo time (but don’t forget to eat!)
It’s customary for the couple to be served dinner first, so that you to visit with your guests during dinner to say hello and thank them for coming. This is a great time for candid and posed photos with your friends and families. I always stick close to my clients as they move through the room, to make sure that we document all of those interactions, hugs, greetings, and laughter. And we make a list of informal group photos they want to get during this time – college friends, cousins, work friends, etc. – so that we don’t miss out on any important group.
8. Don’t plan on photography until the end of the reception.
Sometimes, after there’s been an open bar for 4 or 5 hours, the end of the night can be a bit…messy. People drink more, your hair comes down, your dress gets dirty. Once dinner ends and the real party begins, I suggest 1-2 hours of “party pictures.” Front-load the important things (cake, traditional dances, toasts) and let your photographer leave before you and your friends get too down and dirty.