Along with wedding planners, I’m pretty sure most wedding photographers are the ideal person to ask about your wedding timings. After all, we are there from first thing in the morning, till those crazy dance floor moves take shape. In my experience, the day happens, as it happens, no matter how much you plan, but here are a few tips to think about when you do sit down with your suppliers and venue to plan your day.
No matter how early a bride and her bridesmaids start their hair and make up, more often than not I see many running around last minute trying to get the bride in the dress, simply because time ran away with them. This moment of putting the dress on, should be treasured and memorable for the immense memory that it is in my eyes. Think how long you took to choose that particular dress to feel special in, yet if you leave it too late, it is put on in a hurry. Lace-back dresses especially need time to be breathed in and then tightened again. If Bridesmaids are busy getting themselves in to their dresses at the same time, then who is helping the bride get in to her dress? It makes for much better images if the bridesmaids are all ready and looping up those buttons with care. Being ready earlier as a bride gives you time to have some stunning portraits taken with all the emotions and perfect hair and make up, because the day moves pretty fast after this. It gives the bride time to have photos taken with her bridesmaids, as they are your best friends often. It also gives the bride time to have photos taken of dad’s reaction to seeing you and hugs before he walks his girl down that aisle. So when you think of the time you need to be ready, build in half an hour before and not five minutes. You’ll feel calmer for it and love the images of you looking beautiful. All of this applies to any groom also, so plan ahead, before you hit the pub for a cheeky one.
First Look & Secret Hand Holding
This is very much an American thing, but I see more of it here in the UK now. Consider if your first look at each other on your wedding day was somewhere special and private, away from all the guests. Imagine how much it would relax you as the groom, or bride to be, knowing that you have seen the person you love in your own time, without everyone staring. It gives you chance to have some true, emotional portraits taken as a couple without the time rushing away with you as it does later. Sometimes, an image set up where you stand either side of a door, or pillar, so that you can calm the nerves by simply holding your partner’s hand, but save seeing each other for the aisle, is a perfect compromise to this.
The Group Photographs
I feel there is nothing worse at a wedding than group photographs taking over and I always recommend limiting any group shots to the minimum configuration that you can work out to keep everyone happy. Of course you want images of everybody there, but a mixture of group and natural images is the balance for your memories and to enjoy the day in my experience. If you planned your group shots ahead and told people how important they are to you and ask if they can be around at that point in time, it works so much better and is quicker. People arrive at venues and check in for example, so if you are planning your groups shots straight away you need to tell people this in advance of the day. If you planned canapés first, then maybe have a schedule on your wedding information that you can send to people that says photos will be at 3pm for example. I’ve seen some great stationery out there that people have on arrival at their venue so guests know what to expect also. It makes everyone happy and relaxed to know what is happening.
You as a Couple
I cannot stress enough for you to put time aside for this for two reasons. Firstly, as the photographer, or course I am going to say you need to build in time to have portraits taken of you as a couple and if these are rushed in five minutes before the wedding breakfast, then it is a shame. You are the most important aspect of this day. You as a couple, in love and taking time to appreciate what you have just done and how amazing you both look. Secondly, taking time away from everyone to have your photographs taken, gives you time to use the venue you have chosen to the max, have space to breathe and take it in and most importantly, time together alone. Many photographers will want you to walk ahead and capture natural images and those five minutes could be such a precious memory, when you think back in years to come.
The Wedding Breakfast
Often first thing in the morning, when the photographer arrives at a venue, the room where you will sit down to eat, is not ready. This means the only opportunity to capture it, dressed fully with all your details and decorations, is just before you sit down to eat. So consider does your photographer have time to capture it for you. Also consider if you are having a receiving line as this can take up to a half hour. So if you tell your photographer that you are sitting down to eat at 3pm, but last minute decide to have a receiving line, which hence needs to be at 2:30pm, then you have lost 30 minutes of time for either your photography, or more quality time with your family and friends.
The Day’s Timings
From the moment couples walk out of their ceremony as a married couple, to the time you sit down to eat, I as the photographer have had everything from one hour to nearly three hours to capture images. In my opinion, find the happy balance. If you only have one hour, the chances are that, that hour will be spent being photographed and hence no time to be with your guests. If you allow three hours, then I’d recommend a lot of canapés as most people will not have eaten since breakfast.
If you are planning any surprises for your partner, don’t forget to tell your photographer and videographer, so they can be there. You’ll want those priceless moments captured after all your planning.
My best advice is to think how do you want to spend your day. What is important to you? What does your venue offer for you in terms of your day, such as beautiful vast gardens and stunning rooms you want to be photographed in, or a place that your guests will love to relax in? Do you want to spend time chatting to your friends, or get straight on with the champagne, food and dancing? It is your day and all suppliers and guests will work with you if you have something in mind, so simply plan ahead and get everybody on board with your dream day.