So, where did we leave off in Wedding Photography Timeline Part One? Oh, yes, you've made it to your ceremony location and you were very patiently waiting for THE moment to walk down the aisle! How could I forget? While you're relaxing and having a sip (or a couple sips!) of champagne, I'll be checking out the best locations for me to stand to get the best shots, without being obtrusive, during the ceremony, if I haven't shot here before. I'll also be taking photos of guests as they arrive and more photos of the bride and groom as they begin to realize what they are about to embark on. Ooh, I love these photos of deep thought, last-minute emotions before you walk down the aisle.
The Ceremony! 20-90 minutes
Every ceremony is unique, so we will chat about the specifics of yours before planning your photography timeline. You may be having a quick, but still meaningful, non-religious exchanging of vows that takes 15 minutes, or you may be having a ceremony filled with religious traditions. Whichever you choose, please check with your officiant to determine an approximate length so that we can plan your timeline accordingly.
The Receiving Line! 20-40 minutes
If you choose to have a receiving line after your ceremony, plan on about 30 seconds per couple to say "hello, congratulations, you look lovely, thank you, nice to meet you, etc.". Then, your
Bride and Groom Formals, Bridal Party, and Extended Family Portraits! 30-120 minutes
After the ceremony, and after the receiving line (if you choose to have one), now is the time to take all of the bride and groom formals, bridal party and extended family portraits. Now, if you did a First Look (which I highly recommend), we can get these done in 20-3o minutes max, allowing you to go enjoy some of your Cocktail Hour with your guests. This is the last big chunk of formal photos that we'll take together, so if there are any shots that we didn't get earlier in the day, either due to grandparents not available or running late with hair and makeup, for example, we will do our best to get them done now. As you can see there's a very big chunk of time allotted to this area, but there are a lot of "ifs" that will determine how long it will take:
- If your ceremony and reception are at different locations, you have to factor in travel time. And remember, always add 25% extra for traffic; if it's a holiday weekend or you're traveling into the city, add even more.
- If your photography location is on the way to reception, plan a little extra time to park and for everyone else to park and make their way to the location.
- If you did a First Look, we will need about 30 minutes to get some shots with the grandparents, parents, a few more full bridal party shots, and a few more bride and groom shots.
- If you didn't do a First Look, plan on spending a good 60 minutes taking photos, and please don't expect to attend your cocktail hour. Also, add on any travel time to the reception location here.
Here are a couple of examples to help with timing:
- Your ceremony and reception are at the same location, so there is no travel time, and you did a First Look = 30 minutes
- Your ceremony and reception are at the same location, so there is no travel time, and you did not do a First Look = 60 minutes
- Your ceremony is 30 minutes from the reception location with 25% buffer, and you did a First Look = 60 minutes
- Your ceremony is 30 minutes from the reception location with 25% buffer, and you did not do a First Look = 90 minutes
Also, keep in mind that even if your ceremony and reception are in the same location, it will take some time to get everyone gathered together and actually start taking photos. Again, it's a great idea to assign a responsible close friend and give them a copy of your shotlist with timing to help make sure everyone is where they need to be. And if your ceremony and reception are in different locations, keep in mind that it takes a bit of time to get everyone into the vehicles, parked, out of the vehicles and to the photo location. And by this point in the day, everyone is ready to get into the reception and have some fun!
Cocktail Hour! 60 minutes
If you've hired a second shooter, they will help me with some of the post-ceremony formals for a small chunk of the time, and then, once everything is in order, she will head off to take some shots of your guests at cocktail hour and of your undisturbed reception ballroom. Let's face it, you probably won't have a chance to see all of your placecards, floral arrangements and table numbers that you planned so carefully until the room is filled with guests. So, it's always good to try and plan for one of us to take a couple shots. If you haven't hired a second shooter, and your reception and ceremony are at the same location, I will try and sneak and take a few shots of your reception area before the cocktail hour is over. Of course, if there's any time at all left, I will try to get some of your guests enjoying cocktail hour.
The Reception! 3+ hours
Now it's time to have some fun! Most receptions will start with you and your bridal party being announced as you enter the room. Prior to this entrance, I will go around to tables or groups of people and take some fun guest photos. Once you're announced and you make your entrance, you will then go into your very romantic and special First Dance. Typically, the Maid-of-Honor and Best Man will give their speeches next, followed by the start of dinner. Again, prior to dinner being served, I will go around and take more group photos. Once dinner is served I usually stop the group photos for a bit, because let's be honest, I wouldn't want to have photos taken of myself as I'm stuffing a dinner roll in my face, so I highly doubt your guests would appreciate it either. Some venues will have you cut your cake after the salad course, some will have you do it after your first dance. I've seen it done both ways (and at other times), so it's best to check with your venue coordinator so that I can plan accordingly. Usually the coordinators are very good, and they will give me a heads-up that it's almost cake-cutting time, and I definitely appreciate this! After dinner, the parent dances usually take place, and then the night of everyone dancing officially commences! Please keep in mind that guests don't start dancing until about 90 minutes into the reception (30 minutes for First Dance and Speeches plus 60 minutes for Dinner Service), so it's best to allot 2-3 hours for your reception photography in order to get the cake cutting, parent dances, bouquet toss, and guests dancing captured.
Sneaking Away! 15-20 minutes
Many times, if I see an amazing sunset or a location too good to be true, I will steal the bride and groom away from the reception for a few minutes to take some extra special photos of just the two of them. These are always some of my favorite photos from the day! The two of you are relaxed and the idea that you're officially married is starting to sink in, so your happiness is through the roof! This is also the perfect time for using some special lighting techniques if we've entered into the evening hours.
The Exit! 10 minutes
If you've planned a special exit as you say goodbye to your guests and hello to your honeymoon, we can definitely capture that for you! Some couples like to be showered in the glittery goodness of sparklers, while others like to drive off in an antique car. Whatever it is, it's great to get this captured in photos! If you haven't planned for me to stay until the very end of your reception, I have had some couples stage their goodbye so that they can get these images. It's not always ideal to get guests from larger weddings all outside at once, but it can work with smaller weddings or a smaller group of people.
Time to Say Goodnight!
When it's time for the photography to end :(, I will come up and let you know that I have a few more minutes left and ask if there are any special photos that you'd like me to take before leaving for the evening. When all is said and done, you will have about 6-10 hours of photography for your wedding day. Six hours is usually sufficient if your ceremony and reception are at the same location. If you have a short trip between your ceremony and reception, 8 hours is a good amount of time. Ten hours is perfect for larger wedding parties and longer trips between the ceremony and reception.
And that's about it! I know, it's a LOT, but don't worry! I ask lots of questions and then create your preliminary timeline with the best way to use your time with me. Then, once the preliminary blocks of time are set, I get a bit more detailed and do my best to keep everything on schedule. I want you to have the best wedding photos that you could possibly have, so I work very hard to make sure the timelines are realistic. My goal is to capture your day as it happens so that you can create gorgeous keepsake albums that help you relive the day moment by moment.