Wedding Timeline Guide
Most people who are planning their wedding are doing it for the first time, and typically don't have a clue as to how to schedule out the day. We get so many questions about scheduling for certain photos so we put everything together in this handy guide! We'll go over everything from getting ready, to ceremony & reception, to send off. Most of this has to deal with light, which is the single most important thing for a well-exposed photo. We are by no means experts, nor do we think this is the only way to do things. These are just our suggestions from our experience shooting weddings!
Getting ready - 90 mins
Some of our favorite photos to take are when you two are getting ready. All of those nerves building up and the anticipation of seeing your love is super exciting. We like to arrive with ample time to say hey and get to know everyone a little bit before putting our cameras in your faces. We also like to walk around a bit and scout the area and take detail photos. Then we'll start taking photos of you getting ready and putting your dress on.
If possible, get ready in a place with lots and lots of natural light and light colored walls. The natural light is soft and flattering to skin tones. Talk to your hair/makeup artist and see if they can put you by a big window and turn off the interior lights. The harsh orange hue of tungsten light isn't super flattering on your skin.
clear the clutter
Try to keep all luggage, clothing, and any other clutter in another room. This keeps your photos looking clean and free of distractions. Typically when we arrive we turn off interior lights, and do a quick sweep to put any clutter out of sight.
First look - 30 mins
We never want to force you into doing a first look if you would rather save that moment for when you walk down the aisle, but we will say there are a few benefits to doing one. The most important reason is that you get to actually spend more time on the day of your wedding with your love. The moment of seeing each other can be more candid and relaxed, instead of all the pressure of a bunch of people watching as you walk down. Our approach to first looks is that we try to take wider shots and stand a good distance away, and we don't direct the moment. We want it to be all yours. And we'll take photos for the first 10 minutes or so, but then we encourage you guys to take the next 20 minutes and go on a walk or spend some alone time together without cameras on you.
Another benefit of having a first look is that we can do all of the posed family photos & wedding party photos before the ceremony. That way after the ceremony you can go straight into celebrating. Its always a little bit of a buzz kill to take you away from hugging all your friends & family right after the ceremony and make you stand in a line and smile.
Family photos - 30 mins
We want to make family photos go as smoothly & quickly as possible because, let's be honest, no one likes standing around holding a smile for an hour. We ask that you give us a detailed list of each shot and the names of who is in each one, that way we can just call out names for each photo. It also helps us to navigate possible family tensions (so we don't accidentally leave out a step parent or something). We recommend keeping this list as short as possible and doing larger groups rather than lots of individual shots just to make it go quicker. We also recommend letting each person know that they are needed for family photos that way they know exactly when & where to show up. Late members often make family photos get delayed.
Wedding Party - 30 mins
We love getting photos of you and all your close friends and we want to make sure we have ample time for group shots and individual photos with each member. We like to keep these fun & light & focus on capturing you guys laughing together and having a good time. The time will also depend on how large your wedding party is, so the more bridesmaids/groomsmen there are, the more time we will need to make sure we get everything in.
Individual Portraits - 15 mins
This is something that often gets overlooked or rushed. We want to make sure and get individual photos of you sometime before the ceremony. This can happen at any point that's convenient. We prefer for this to just be us and you, that way you can have a moment alone to collect your thoughts, and we can capture you without bridesmaids running up and moving flyaways and primping your flowers every couple shots.
Ceremony - 30 mins
Some couples pride themselves on having extremely short ceremonies. We even had one wedding where the ceremony was less than 5 minutes long. As much as I understand the desire to not have to stand for a long time, it can also be problematic from a photography standpoint. It makes it difficult to get different angles and change lenses when the whole thing lasts just a few minutes. Also, having more time gives you the chance to actually take everything in and think about everything you're promising to. The ceremony is the most important part of the day, its what you've been dreaming about for months--that moment when you say I do and commit your lives together. Give yourselves a 20-30 minute ceremony so you can breathe, think, and really feel everything that's happening. Don't feel like you have to rush that moment.
We recommend having your ceremony within two hours of sunset. Overhead midday light can be extremely harsh. It produces dark shadows across your faces and makes it hard to actually see your candid expressions in the photos. Softer light will also make it easier for your guests to watch the ceremony without squinting in the all the photos.
We understand that the timeline or venue restrictions don't always allow for the ceremony to be held close to sunset, so if you must have your ceremony midday, try to situate yourselves so that you're backlit (meaning the sun is behind the two of you so that the side of your faces we and the guests see is in shade). This keeps your faces in even shade which is much easier to see.
Cocktail Hour - 1 hour
If you have chosen not to do a first look, we will do all of the family photos & wedding party photos during the cocktail hour. And again, let each family member know beforehand that they are needed for these photos, so Uncle Joe doesn't run off and grab a beer at your cocktail hour when we need him for pictures. If you have done a first look and all the posed photos are done, we will use this time to take detail photos of the reception area and all the little decorations and details you've put hard work into. And candids of you guys having a good time with your guests.
Sunset Photos - 30-45 mins
These are our favorite photos of the whole day. These are what you will print, post, and keep forever. The photos of just the two of you. We ask that we get to steal you guys during golden hour while the sun is setting and go make some magic with the two of you. We want this to be just us and you two, no other bridesmaids, wedding planners, or parents. This is your time to be alone and make out and talk and celebrate each other after all the stressful parts are done. We like to keep these photos relaxed & candid. Usually we play some music and talk about marriage. Its the best. We want to have ample time for these photos so you guys don't feel rushed and can remain present together.
Reception - 2-3 Hours
Like you've probably noticed with much of our work, we like to work with natural/ambient light as much as possible. We don't like to work with flash unless absolutely necessary. There are a couple of reasons for this. Flash tends to make people look flat and washed out, its not the most flattering light, and it can be distracting to have a bright flash going off every couple seconds. Also, we really want our photos to feel like how the day actually felt. So if your reception is outside and lit with string lights, we want our photos to reflect that warm, romantic light. The exception to this is if its too dark to use the ambient light, and of course, we love bringing out the flash during the dance party.
If you have a DJ, we ask that they keep the colorful party lights off until after the first dances are done. The intimacy of a first dance can be interrupted if there are neon green and pink lights flashing on you.
We LOVE sparkler exits!! We recommend buying the larger ones as they will burn longer and produce more light. Also, feel free to take your time going through the line! You can stop in the middle and kiss or go through multiple times if you'd like. Take your time so we can get some awesome photos!
A few more thoughts
I know having a structured timeline can seem like the opposite of a carefree and laidback day, but I promise it will make things much easier and less stressful. Instead of feeling rushed all day, having a solid timeline will help you not feel overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done. And put someone in charge of the timeline. Whether that's an actual hired wedding planner, or a helpful aunt, or a type-A bridesmaid. Having someone in charge helps so that you don't have to worry about where to be, they'll just come find you when its time for the next thing. Also, feel free to schedule down time. Before the ceremony, plan to take half an hour or so to freshen up, or be alone to collect your thoughts, or have a moment with your mom. And make sure there's time in the day to eat and hydrate.
We used to not care too much about whether people used their phones to take photos during the ceremony, but lately its become increasingly bothersome because it is so distracting. We can't tell you how many times our photos of the bride coming down the aisle have been blocked by someone sticking their phone into the aisle. We highly recommend asking guests to refrain from taking photos during the ceremony. I think it makes for much better candid photos of the guests because your guests are actually present in the moment, instead of watching the ceremony through their phones. If you decide to do an unplugged ceremony, have a sign out and have your officiant remind people (because sometimes they forget once they've sat down).
Send us invitations! We love getting invited to our weddings. We recommend sending us invites & save the dates ahead of time so we can take photos of them. If you don't feel like sending it ahead of time, you are more than welcome to just bring them on the wedding day, but often this is something that gets forgotten. If you send it ahead of time you don't have to worry about it. If any part of the invite is double sided, send two so we can get both sides in the same photo (like the example photo, there are two invites and RSVPs).
We ask that we eat with you guys or just after. A lot of venues require that vendors be served last, but this is often problematic for photography, because usually toasts start towards the end of dinner. Often times we end up having to eat super fast or not eat at all because we need to photograph the toasts. Typically we don't take photos while people are eating anyway, so it works for us to have a break during that time also.
Social media is the primary way we book weddings, so we SUPER appreciate it when you guys tag us in our photos online or put our website in the captions! You are more than welcome to post your photos whenever and wherever you please, we just ask that you don't re-edit our photos (this basically means not putting instagram filters on the photos we've spent hours editing and color-correcting).
I can honestly say that our wedding was the best day of my life, and we want the same for you guys. As much as we're there to capture the day, we're also there to celebrate with you. Often times you'll spend more time with us than anyone else on your wedding day, and we want you guys to feel like you can totally be yourselves around us. We want to capture the real you & celebrate you guys in the process.
Feel free to email us if you have any questions or need advice with the planning process. We've done this a lot and we love it. We're happy to help wherever we can.