We’ve taken our experiences at over 450 weddings to compile timeline suggestions along with tips to stay on schedule. Running behind is the enemy of your wedding and we’ll help you defeat it.

Locations:

We ask that we start coverage an hour before you get dressed for your wedding day.  Our first task then is to set the best time for you to dress and that hinges on some other logistics.

We’ll look at when your ceremony starts, where it is, when you need to arrive there, and whether or not family and wedding couple portraits are happening before the ceremony.

First Look – See Each Other Before the Ceremony or Not?

It’s not a timeline conversation until we address the first look or “reveal” between you and your fiance.  Let’s determine first if that’s the best option for your enjoyment of your day and then go from there to pencil in other pre-ceremony elements leading back to dressing. When you know dressing then you know when hair and makeup has to be completed which is the first key to running on time and stress free.

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In some cultures a couple sees one another before the ceremony and there are games and festivities surrounding that event. If that’s you then skip this section.

In general we’ve found that many hold onto a romantic idea the first look should be in the aisle during the ceremony.  For others it’s simply a logistic question of what will work best to allow everyone the best experience.  Let’s take a deeper look at your needs and maybe bust a myth or two.

Traditional Church to Reception Schedule. In cases where there are a couple of hours between the end of the ceremony and the cocktail hour it makes sense to save the first look for the aisle and it is a lovely flow.

All in One Location Schedule. In cases where your ceremony and reception are in the same location we recommend a couple have a first look, seeing one another 2-3 hours before the ceremony.  This allows you to flow out of your recessional straight into meet and greet mode knowing that all your portraits are done (save for a few optional twilight or golden hour shots during dinner).

 

What if you opt to see each other in the aisle anyway? Good question. I’ll take care of you either way to the best of my ability. Let me try to paint you a picture of how that could look.

 

Cocktail hour begins immediately after the ceremony has concluded and often the venue is trying to flip the room.  In this scenario there isn’t much time for more than a quick set of photos of the newlywed couple, followed by immediate and extended family, then the wedding party. This takes up to 30 minutes when extended families are involved and that’s all in one location (usually at the ceremony site).  After that most of our couples want to have some photos together and more with their wedding party which is doable if you have a very small party of say 4 and 4 and are ok staying near the location so that dinner starts on time.

 

On a side note, we’ve found that couples are distracted by so many people they want to say hi to yet they’re caught trying to take care of must have group photos at the same hectic time.

It also our creativity and your portrait set’s diversity to have to stay in one spot and hurry through the requisite portraits.

For these reasons, when you’re doing an all in one location or when the reception begins almost immediately after the ceremony, we recommend that

 

all portraits may be made prior.  It’ll be more enjoyable that way for everyone and you’ll have time to make some relaxed photographs.

Your situation may be different than either of these scenarios and so we’ll help you come up with what’s best for your situation.  If you have any questions that you’d like to see answered then leave them in the comments or contact us via email or phone.

BRIDE’S Preparations – Getting Ready

 

people to be present at a bride’s preparations – parents, siblings,  attendants, and any others that you may enjoy having around (grandparent, godmother, etc)

We want to start 1 hour before a gown goes on and then have another hour with your group dressed prior to departure for the next big thing (usually the ceremony or a first look).

Details. When we first arrive we make photographs of any preparations going on as well as the dress or tux hanging, rings, the invitation, and any other requested details. We recommend setting aside any items that you wants us to photograph and have those items ready to go, out of their packaging, all together in one place, and the dress on a preferred hanger. Having those items ready lets us use our photographic gifts rather than hunting, opening packages, cutting tags, and other suddenly expensive menial tasks.

Candids. Since there are two of us shooting, one of us will be making candid shots of everyone present. This is why prefer that the bride’s parents and siblings as well as all of the bride’s attendants be around during this portion of the day.  It’s great for us to get natural candid shots of the most important people in your life.

Dressing.  We like to arrive after the bride’s hair is finished and as the make-up is underway or nearly completed on the bride – 60 minutes before she is to dress.  We recommend putting on the gown about 60-90 minutes before you need to depart for the ceremony or first look.

Dress Help. Whomever is helping a bride get dressed should already be dressed with make-up finished before the bride so that they don’t hold up the bride putting on her dress.  If other bridesmaids are still in prep that is OK with us but we’d love for them all to be ready in time for some group portraits as well. That is unless…

We’ve had brides get ready super early for pre-ceremony pictures and in more than one case the mother of the bride helped her get dressed in jeans and a button up shirt.  It was totally fine and natural for family not to be in formal wear that early.  We had family join us at a park a couple hours later and we made some more formal shots there. Let’s discuss what’s best for your preparations.

Bridal Portraits! After dressing, we love to make the portraits of the bride. Her hair, make up, and dress are their most pristine.  If it’s a hot summer day we’ll work indoors or in the shade for these in order to keep the bride and her flowers fresh. We’ll have a long day ahead of us. 🙂  Ideally we’d make fun and comfortable portraits of the bride with her parents, siblings, and bridesmaids during this early portion of the day as well.

 

At that point we either jump over to your fiance’s room at the hotel or depart for the ceremony site to join the other partner there.

Hotel Indigo Wedding - Wes Craft Photography

Groom’s Preparations

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Timing – Allow 45-60 minutes for coverage of the guys getting suited up and then formals of the groom alone, groom with parents, and groom with groomsmen.

We generally spend about half as much time with the groom as we do with the bride before the ceremony.  The guys’ photos move more quickly without the hair, make-up, and sometimes complicated dressing process.  We like to have the equivalent folks present for the groom as we did for the bride.  If the groom is getting ready in the same hotel then a lot of times one of us will head over to the guys’ room about 30-40 minutes after we’ve both started with the bride.

That said, if the guys have fun shaving rituals or some other pre-dressing activities you’d like covered just let us know!

Tip: Have the men’s flowers delivered to their room along with the groom’s mother’s corsage.

The Ceremony

Tip: Allow ample time for yourself to commute to the ceremony and arrive at least 30 minutes prior to its start time.

Photography Arrival 30 Minutes Prior. If we’ve already covered Groom’s prep then we want arrive at the ceremony site 30 minutes to an hour prior to the ceremony’s start for fail safe. It allows us to get in, unpack, speak to any officiants, capture details, guests arriving, and prep for the processional.

Photo Arrival 1 Hour Prior. If the groom was getting ready at a great distance from the bride then we may recommend that our 2 photographer team stay together for the bride’s coverage and then join the groom’s group 1 hour prior to the ceremony at the ceremony site. Let’s talk about it.

We always want to respect the dignity of the ceremony and so we shoot discreetly and follow all rules given to us by the venue.  When allowed we’ll be capturing multiple angles of your ceremony. We’ll discuss restrictions with your officiant or venue representative.

Family Formals – 15-30 minutes (2-4 minutes per group requested)

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Who to Include & When to do Family Photos? 

For First Look Timelines

Try to conduct at least the immediate family photos 1 hour prior to the ceremony near the ceremony location so that we are finished prior to guests arriving. Immediately after the ceremony we would take care of any extended family groups as needed and it’s less time consuming.

Alternately, if extended family is small, we can make immediate and extended family photos after the ceremony as long as time permits.

For Tight Timelines without First Looks

If you have everything in one location yet did not have a first look then there is little or no time after a ceremony for creative photos of the wedding couple and their wedding party.  In these cases we’d recommend limiting the post ceremony family photos to only the immediate families, wedding party, then bride and groom.

If desired, we’d capture any extended groups during the reception. We’d capture those after dinner but before dancing has kicked off.

For Spacious Timelines with No First Look

Typically formals that include immediate, extended family, and the wedding party will take 30 minutes give or take 5 minutes. These would be done immediately after the ceremony while everyone is most fresh and all together in one place!

Special Exits?

If you have a grand exit planned and time is limited then we recommend conducting the exit after the family photos are complete. Moving the masses outside and then motivating folks to come back inside is often very time consuming.  Many times we lose a few relatives to confusion. Some relatives will assume that you’re leaving too and that perhaps “family” photos just meant immediate family and not themselves.

Other Photography Locations

After a restroom break and loading the limo, figure that 45 minutes has transpired since the ceremony has ended. If there was a lot delay such as greeting guests row by row then maybe 60-70 minutes have passed.

How far are you from your venue at this point and what time does cocktail hour start? Do you want to be a part of cocktail hour or skip it for more photos? These answers will inform where we’ll be able to go and how much time you’ll have for a creative photo shoot time.

We recommend 1 stop per hour, roaming in that area to maximize our portrait opportunities. Often we can make another quick stop where only a bride and groom hop out for a set too.

We always recommend choosing photo shoot locations that are conveniently on the route toward the reception venue or using the spaces that you’ve already rented such as the reception venue, hotel, or church grounds to maximize our time and productivity.  It’s also more relaxing to know that you’re getting places on time or ahead of schedule.

I can’t tell you how many times traffic or other delays commuting to distant spots cost us group photos that we needed. We’ve had to jump out of limos in stopped traffic to make photos beneath underpasses or in other unusual spots out of necessity. They turned out pretty cool but it wasn’t the plan. Picking locations that are logistically sensible is key.  It’s about the people in the pics more than the settings (of course we want both).

The Reception

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We like to have some time during cocktail hour or prior in order to photograph your room, cake, and other details that you’ve labored over.  Since there are two of us, we can usually split up to get these while the other of us is working with the bride & groom or capturing cocktail hour mingling.

We discuss your reception timeline with your DJ or band so that we’re ready for your introductions, dances, toasts, and other events.

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Meal Break

Fresh Hot Meal During dinner we ask that a fresh hot meal be provided for the 2 of us.  A table in one corner or near the DJ’s booth can be most convenient while allowing us to keep an eye on the room and not miss some impromptu moments.

Due to space or other considerations some venues will place our table outside of the main dining room. This is fine so long as our entrees are served promptly at the beginning of entree service, not at the end. See the following.

Vendor Meal Timing Some venues, very few thankfully, will attempt to serve us after the very last guest has received a plate, even when we’re seated in a hallway out of guest’s view. This does not make logistic sense. A bride and groom will be served first and be long finished before the media team has started eating.  We need to be served when the wedding couple is so that we’re done when you’re done and ready to serve you when you need us post dinner. As far as I can tell it’s some holdover about when “the help” can eat and it doesn’t allow us to serve you best.

Please inform your venue event manager why it’s important that your photo/video team members be served on the front end of the entree service. Together we can educate the few remaining venues that still have this practice.

Dancing

We find that approximately 90 minutes of open dance and party coverage is usually an excellent amount.  On a typical wedding, by 10 or 10:30pm we’re wrapping up final request shots. We’ll help you determine what’s best for your coverage start and end time.  We average 9-10 hours of coverage for a wedding.

Our longest day to date has been 16 hours (phew)!

Night Cap

At some point in the night, if you’re willing, we love to create a night photo.  Let us know if you’re in the mood for that.  We get set up and then come grab you for 5-10 minutes of shooting.  Some folks don’t want to leave the dance floor for even a minute and that’s fine too.

Whatever you do, have fun doing it and we’ll capture that!

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