NO TWO WEDDINGS ARE THE SAME, BUT THIS IS MY ROUGH STANDARD TIMELINE WHICH YOU COULD USE AS A GUIDE, AND SOME USEFUL TIPS FROM A PHOTOGRAPHER’S POINT OF VIEW TO HELP YOUR DAY RUN SMOOTHLY
3 HOURS (2 – 2.5 HOURS FOR ME)
As bridal prep is such a huge part of the day, I’ve allocated a whole separate blog post to this – some dos, some don’ts, and plenty of ideas about how to get the most out of your bridal prep photos! Check out my “10 Top Tips for Bridal Prep” blog post for all the details!
Pick a large, spacious room to get ready in wherever possible, with as little clutter and as much natural light as possible, or make use of any nice outdoor space – this will make for the best photographs.
Details – Try to have as many of these out and gathered together as possible, ready for me to photograph – this includes things like shoes, cufflinks, buttonholes, ties and rings.
When getting ready, try to do this together with the other groomsmen if you can – it’s always nice to get some shots of you doing your ties together/helping each other with buttonholes etc.
Speaking of ties, these can sometimes be problematic in the rush of a wedding morning! If you’re not normally a tie-wearer, or perhaps you’re wearing something a little bit different, like a cravat, it’s a really good idea to practice in advance! Make sure at least one member of the groomsmen party knows exactly what they’re doing, and can show the others – the last thing you want is to be tying yourself in knots and getting flustered when you’re trying to get ready!
If getting photographs of your groom prep is a priority for you, consider adding a 2nd photographer to your package. If you are getting ready in separate venues, there is not usually time for me to visit both the bride and the groom for morning prep photos, so generally speaking I will just be with the bride (unless you’ve advised me otherwise). Or, you could consider getting ready in the same location (ie, if you’re both staying in the same hotel the night before the wedding then this can work well) – if you are in the same place then it’s easier for me to pop in to see you both during the morning.
30-45 MINS FOR CIVIL CEREMONIES, OR 1 HOUR FOR RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES
Walking down the aisle – Practice makes perfect! Have several run-throughs with your bridal party, making sure the various entrances are coordinated well with the music (work out how long your track is and try to make sure entrances are well spaced throughout the track). Put someone in charge of coordinating this with you on the day, giving a signal to each person when they should start walking. When you’re walking down the aisle, remember to smile, and most importantly of all, DON’T RUSH! To get those picture perfect shots of you walking down the aisle, you need to keep your head up, keep smiling, and make sure there is plenty of time for me to snap away, so do take your time. If bridesmaids are entering first, it’s a good idea to make sure they have finished their entrance before the bride walks in. If you all come in together the bride ends up being blocked in all of the photos, and I can’t get a clear shot of you making your entrance.
First kiss – HOLD IT! Everyone wants a beautiful photo of their first kiss as a married couple – it’s such a special moment of your ceremony! But you’d be amazed at the number of couples who go for a really quick peck, and it’s a real case of blink and you miss it! As your photographer, I definitely don’t want to miss that moment, so remember to hold the kiss for at least a good few seconds, to make sure I can capture a great shot of you both. Again, you can practice beforehand so it doesn’t feel awkward on the day!
Bridal trains – if you have a big train on your dress, make sure you have at least one of your bridesmaids prepped to keep an eye on it and help fluff it out for you throughout the ceremony. Often there are several moments where you have to move from sitting to standing, and into different positions throughout the ceremony, and you want to make sure the train of your dress looks as beautiful as it should in all your photos, flowing out behind you, rather than being tucked round the back of you or scrunched in a heap.
Confetti – it’s a good idea to provide confetti for your guests, as very few guests bring their own these days, and leaving the ceremony to a shower of confetti is not only a wonderful moment full of joy and excitement, but usually makes for some great photos too, if you have enough of it – I always say it’s a good idea to bring lots! It can be a nice idea to fill little cones with confetti so that each guest can take one and get ready to throw this as you walk past. Think about the colour scheme of your wedding and consider choosing something which would fit nicely with this, and also remember to check the venue’s policy before you buy, as a lot of venues now ask for you to use biodegradable confetti only. Assign one or two groomsmen to help give out the confetti and rally everyone together at the end of the ceremony, making sure everyone gathers in the right place (ask everyone to form two lines for you to walk down the middle) and knows what is about to happen.
Make a list – Trying to pick and choose people to be part of the formal family photos on the day is a recipe for disaster, so make sure you have carefully planned out who should be in each photo in advance, so that nobody is left out and people are grouped in the best way possible. If you can send me your list in advance I will make sure I have that with me on the day so that I know what’s going on and who we are looking for in each shot.
Have some helpers – make sure there is an organised person from each side of the family ready to gather everyone together. These helpers should have a printed copy of your photo list, so that we all know the order of the shots you’d like. I won’t know everybody on the list, and that’s why these helpers are so important, as we will need to rely on them to get the right people in the right place at the right time! While one photo is taking place, the helpers can be gathering people ready for the next photo, so that things run smoothly and we can go quickly from one photo to the next.
Set limits – no two families are the same, so it’s not possible to say exactly how many shots you should aim for, as some family groups are very small and some are massive, but as a general rule, try to limit it to around 10-15 shots in total if you can. You all want to get on with enjoying your day, and so the quicker the process the better for everyone involved. If you have a particularly large family, consider grouping more people together in one photo. For example, if the bride has 4 brothers, don’t have a separate photo of you both with each brother individually – get them all together with you in one photo.
Drinks Reception/Couples Portraits
DRINKS RECEPTION: 1 HOUR /
COUPLES PORTRAITS: 30 MINUTES
Use some of the time during your drinks reception to slip away just the two of you (and me!) to get some lovely couples’ shots of you exploring the grounds around your venue, or any other picturesque locations closeby. Your guests will be happy eating canapes and sipping champagne, while you can enjoy some quality time just the two of you, and get some stunning shots of you in all your finery. This might just be photos at the venue or it might include a few at the church/another nearby location first before making your way to the reception venue.
Relax! Some couples fall naturally into these photos with ease, whereas others can’t think of anything more awkward! I completely understand – being photographed is not for everyone and it can feel a little strange, but my biggest tip really is just to relax and be yourselves. I can give you lots of guidance if you feel that would help you, or equally can just fade into the background if you’d prefer that. Usually the nicest shots I get are the natural ones, so often I’ll find a nice spot and then just ask you to have a chat, a walk, hold hands, look at each other, have a kiss and a cuddle, and be yourselves as a couple, imagining I’m not there. Don’t worry if you still feel awkward, normally if that’s the case it results in a bit of laughter, and that can make for some equally lovely photos!
Create a mood board – although not essential, it can be a really good idea to research your venue in advance and to have a look at other wedding photos so that you know the style of photography you like, and any specific areas in your venue which you’d really like to feature as a backdrop. Share this with me in advance and we can work together to create the perfect images in the style that you’re hoping for.
2 – 2.5 HOURS
Plan your entrance – Normally the bride and groom enter after all the guests are seated so that everyone can give you a clap and a cheer and welcome you to the reception, so make sure you have your route planned in advance. Usually the room is full of tables and if you both have different ideas of which way you’re going to go it can look a little awkward with everyone watching you. Discuss beforehand which route you will take, looking for the widest possible space to fit both a potentially big dress and also the two of you side by side holding hands. Some couples like to really go to town on their entrance and have particular music or some dance moves prepared – if you’re larger than life characters, this is your moment to go for it.
Preparation is key! There’s nothing worse than feeling nervous all through your wedding breakfast about doing your speech, and generally speaking those who have rehearsed their speech numerous times beforehand and tried it out with a few friends etc tend to feel better about it, because they know what they want to say inside out.
“Know your audience!” What type of families are you from, generally speaking? Are there some significant people in one of your families who are very traditional and perhaps more conservative? If so, make sure everyone involved in the speeches knows that – there’s nothing worse than a best man really lowering the tone when a bride’s family really aren’t the types to appreciate that level of humour – it can leave a really awkward feeling in the room! Similarly, if all of you are up for a laugh and perhaps you have a cheekier sense of humour, make sure the speech-givers know this, so that they feel more free to go to town and get the crowd laughing!
Presents – Do you have some special family members or friends who deserve an extra special mention, and perhaps a gift? Often the groom will thank the Mums and give them flowers, but it could be anyone in your family who has gone above and beyond to help you in the run up to the wedding. This is always a really special moment, so it’s nice to plan this in advance and I can be ready to capture the moment of surprise and emotion when your chosen someone receives their gift.
Technology – Sometimes people like to have music, photos, or video incorporated into their speech, and again it can be stressful if this hasn’t been well thought out in advance. Make sure you have checked with your venue, before the big day, exactly what technology they have to offer, and make sure that there’s either someone there to work it for you (who is fully briefed on what you need), or you have had a practice of using it yourself if you need to be in control.
Evening Couples Portraits
Catch the sunset – There’s a part of the day which photographers refer to as “golden hour”, leading up to sunset, when the light is super soft and golden. Getting some photos at this time of day results in beautiful, flattering lighting, and if we’re lucky enough to catch the sunset then your wedding photos will feel even more special and romantic!
Practice your dance – Generally the “golden hour” photos are taken shortly before your first dance (depending of course on what time of year your wedding is taking place, and the timings of your individual day), and so this is the perfect opportunity to have a little run through of some dance moves just the two of you. Imagine I’m not there, and focus on each other. This is not only a really special time for the two of you to be close and connected, but it usually results in some lovely photos as you can try some twirls, spins, cuddles etc with usually a bit of natural laughter thrown in for good measure 🙂
Cake Cutting and First Dance
Think about the positioning of your cake – If this is something you are able to control, make sure the cake is in a well lit area, with a nice background and perhaps surrounded by flowers or some sort of nice decoration. It’s also important to think about little things like table cloths – the cake will look much more picture perfect if sitting on a table cloth than an undressed table.
Rehearse your first dance – this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pull out all the stops with a full-on Strictly inspired routine (although if that’s the sort of thing you have in mind then by all means go for it – that will look awesome in your photos!), it just means make sure you have had a dance to your song a few times before the big day. Some couples like to stand and sway, others throw in a few moves (it always looks great in your photos if you want to try out a few things like a twirl, or the groom leaning the bride back in his arms etc), and some go all out with a properly choreographed routine. Whatever your style, just go for it in your own way, and if you’ve had a few goes at home you should both be feeling comfortable with the sort of thing you’re hoping to achieve.
3 – 4 HOURS (30 MINUTES FOR ME)
Fill the dance floor! Encourage your guests to dance and prep a few key friends and family members beforehand that as soon as your first dance has finished, you want to get the party started! I will stay for the first 30 minutes or so of your evening reception so the more people enjoying the music and having fun, the better – it’s great to get those shots of everyone letting their hair down!
Choose your music wisely – Most DJs/bands will allow you to contribute your own suggestions for the reception music. Perhaps you just have a rough idea of the style of music you like, or perhaps you have a list of 30 songs which are absolute favourites – whatever your approach, you know yourselves and your guests better than anyone else, and the more you are enjoying the music, the more chance you’ll have people up and dancing and having a great night, so make sure your DJ or band knows about your preferences well in advance so they can be prepared to give you the party you deserve.
Lighting – If you are having a DJ, they often have various lighting options available, and great lighting can make a big difference to the evening party. Consider whether you’d like any extras such as a big “LOVE” sign or your initials in lights, which can be fun photo props for you and your guests too.
Sparklers – Does your venue allow sparklers? If so, they make for a great photo opportunity! Once the sun goes down, gather everyone together outside to make an archway of sparklers for you to walk through – a little bit like your confetti moment. If you’re planning to do this, it’s great if you can time it for while I am still at the reception, so that I can be there to document the moment for you.