One of the biggest days of your life... you're marrying your love & getting all of your closest friends & family together in one beautiful place to help you celebrate! Aside from all the joy & fun your wedding day will bring, there is a lot of work that goes in to planning it - assembling your wedding team (photographer, caterer, venue, florist and so on), planning all the little details & sorting out logistics such as transportation, hotel accommodations, etc.. So, once the big day arrives, you'll want to have time to relax, party & completely enjoy the day you spent so long working on.
I know that the idea of having a "plan" for such a celebration sounds a bit rigid and like it couldn't possibly be any fun, but I'm going to tell you that from my years of experience, having some sort of outline for how the day will go is the best thing you can do in order to have everything go as smoothly as possible & relieve some stress. Everyone will know what to expect ahead of time, which is awesome because a large group of confused individuals is never a fun time! Here are some tips to help you come up with a road map for your big day (as far as photography is concerned anyway) -
Spread things out & plan ahead. You are hiring your photographer for what I'm assuming is a good chunk of time... probably somewhere in the 6-10 hour range. There is no need to try and force all of the "creative" portraits, family portraits & detail images in to a 30 minute period of time. This is stressful for the couple and for the photographer as we're rushing to accomplish everything in this tiny time frame and you're feeling overwhelmed by all there is to be done when you really want to be hitting the dance floor and sipping on some champagne! Of course, the rest of the day we'll be hard at work capturing the moments unfold naturally and getting great candid shots, but if possible I recommend planning out adequate time, for any formal photos, prior to the big day, for things to be accomplished in a way that doesn't feel so hurried! There are a couple of ways to do this, the first being my top suggestion. 1. Have a "first look"!
What is a "first look", you ask? It's when a couple see one another, dressed and ready for the ceremony, prior to the ceremony beginning. Now, you will have to have a more non-traditional approach to the day in order to be comfortable with this, but I'd say that 90% of my couples do this and it makes the day so much more relaxed. I can't stress this enough! Here's what I think of the first look - 1. I think that seeing each other alone, and not in front of a huge group of family & friends, is actually pretty sweet. You get a private little moment to talk to each other, touch and alleviate any nerves you had about seeing each other at the ceremony, prior to the ceremony beginning.. pretty cool! 2. Now that you've seen each other, you can do all of your portraits prior to the ceremony starting. This way we make sure we've planned enough time for photos, we get them all done and you have nothing to do after the ceremony... it's off to cocktail hour to hang out with all of your guests. 3. This makes artistically capturing your detail shots & cocktail hour very nice for us photographers, which ends up meaning more creatively thought out images for your collection! We've already done all of your portraits, prior to the ceremony, so while your mixing and mingling, we're hard at work capturing details of your reception space, with candles lit, all ready for guests to enter.
OK, so what if you really don't want to do the first look... Hey, it's not for everyone and if couples really don't want to do it and prefer to have that walking down the aisle moment, I do have some suggestions. *In the case of not seeing one another before, keep in mind this one thing- You will miss your cocktail hour or a good portion of it. You must be OK with this because this will be the only time to do your family photos, couple & combined wedding party portraits. There is no other time to do them, sorry! I hate to be the bearer of bad news :-) Some tips... 1. Consider doing some portraits separately, prior to the ceremony. Anything that you can get done before, with out seeing one another, is less that you'll have to do after the ceremony. So that's great! 2. Consider extending your cocktail hour to an hour and a half. This works really well for more laid back weddings where there are yard games or other things to keep guests entertained. But games aren't needed. Guests are usually totally entertained with food, drinks, mingling and any musical entertainment at the cocktail hour. This extra time will allow us more adequate time to accomplish family, wedding party, couple and detail images within this one portion of the day. 3. Prior to setting up your day without a first look, consider when the sun will set. If you're hoping for gorgeous, softly lit images, but the sun will set ten minutes after your ceremony ends, then photos after the ceremony aren't going to work out. I recommend that couples take daylight in to consideration when planning their ceremony start time, etc.
Lastly, make sure that you're on the same page with all of your vendors. Hiring a wedding planner is usually a great way to make sure things get off without a hitch too!
We're all here to help and happily give suggestions based on our professional experience! No matter which route you end up taking, around the timing of your formal photos, the day is sure to be a whirlwind of excitement and love.... we want to document that as best as we can!