PLANNING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SCHEDULE

Photography is a Medium of Light. Good light makes good photography. The daylight at certain times of day is amazing (sunrise, sunset); the daylight at other times of day makes for tough going, and you've probably noticed how photographs taken indoors look very different to beautiful outdoor portraits. Thus, if good photography is very important to you, let's be sure to maximize certain photography opportunities at specific times of the day.

Good Luck is the Result of Good Planning. And good planning allows us to have more freedom on the day, and maximize your photography investment. Below are some sample schedules that can help you plan. We will have already gone over a sample schedule during our initial meeting--if you need a photo of that mock schedule we created and forgot to take one, let me know! I can send that over to you. If you need extra help, please get in touch! I'm more than happy to discuss your schedule at any time.

SAMPLE SCHEDULES

Sample Schedule: The Full Monty

This is a 7-hour photography schedule that involves a first look, where the wedding is taking place all in one location, including getting ready:

1:45 Getting ready with partner one
2:15 Getting ready with partner two
2:45 First Look
3:15 Hide anyone who doesn’t want to be seen pre-ceremony!
3:30 Candids of guests arriving, ceremony space images
4:00 Ceremony
4:30 Family photos
5:00 Bridal party photos
5:30 Couple’s photos
6:00 Dinner
7:00 Toasts
7:15 Cake cutting
7:30 Sneak couple out for some sunset photos!
8:00 First Dance
8:30 Open Dance Floor
8:45 Conclude photography

Sample Schedule: Round the World

This is what an 8-hour photography schedule can look like that involves multiple different photo locations. These happen to come before the ceremony, but this also can occur after the ceremony as well, if you want to offer your guests an extended cocktail hour:

12:30 Getting dressed with partner one
1:00 Getting dressed with partner two
1:30 First Look
1:45 Travel to first photo location via party bus
2:00 Photos at first location—bridal party and couple
2:25 Travel to second photo location
2:45 Photos at second location—bridal party and couple
3:15 Travel to ceremony site—hide wedding party
3:30 Guests arriving at ceremony site
4:00 Ceremony
4:30 Family photos
5:00 Newlyweds join cocktail hour
5:30 Announced entrance
5:45 Cake cutting
6:00 Dinner
7:00 Toasts
7:30 First dance
7:45 Sneak out for sunset photos
8:00 Open dance floor
8:15 Bouquet toss
8:30 Conclude photography

Sample Schedule: Holy Day

This is a photography schedule for a Catholic ceremony and reception, and can be applied to other more lengthy religious ceremonies. Catholic wedding photography schedules are very rarely less than 8 hours, due to the length of the ceremony, and often larger family photo sessions:

1:00 Getting ready with partner one
1:30 Getting ready with partner two
2:15 Prayer around a corner
2:30 Candids of guests arriving, ceremony space images
3:00 Ceremony
4:00 Family photos
4:45 Bridal party photos
5:15 Couple’s photos
5:45 Grand March
6:00 Dinner
7:00 Toasts
7:15 Cake cutting
7:30 Sneak couple out for some sunset photos!
8:00 First Dance
8:30 Open Dance Floor
9:00 Conclude photography

Sample Schedule: Just the Facts

This is a photography schedule for a 6-hour wedding that doesn't include getting ready photos:

2:30 Ceremony site and photos of guests arriving
3:00 Ceremony
3:30 Family photos
4:00 Bridal party photos
4:30 Couple's photos
5:00 Announced entrance
5:15 Cake cutting
5:30 Dinner
6:30 Toasts
7:00 First dance
7:30 Sneak out for sunset photos
8:00 Open dance floor
8:30 Conclude photography

Sample Schedule: The Very Tiny Wedding!

Tiny weddings are very close to my heart as my parents married at the courthouse on Halloween, 1975! Even tiny weddings have tiny schedules. To wit:

Two hour tiny wedding photography schedule:

11:00 Everyone arrives to the Capitol
11:15 Meet up with Judge and select a ceremony space
11:30 Ceremony
11:45 All the hugs and signing the license
12:00 Family photos
12:30 Couple’s photos
1:00 Conclude photography

Three hour tiny wedding photography schedule:

3:00 Getting ready at the house
3:30 Ceremony (in the backyard!)
3:45 Family photos
4:15 Photos with attendants
4:30 Couple's photos
5:00 Cocktails, snacks, and games on the lawn!
6:00 Conclude photography

Four hour reception only photography schedule:

4:00 Family photos
4:30 Bridal party photos
5:00 Couple’s photos
5:45 Announced entrance
6:00 Tray service snacks
6:30 Cake cutting
7:00 First Dances
7:15 Open dance floor
7:30 Sneak out for sunset shots!
8:00 Conclude photography

Pro Tips (and a few war stories)

  • Have your attendants all dressed in their wedding attire before you put YOUR wedding attire on! This way, the background of your getting ready photos has elements of your colors and dress choices in it, instead of ratty jeans and hair in curlers (unless, of course, that's your thing, then don't even worry about it!)
  • Delegate! Make sure everyone involved with your bridal party can be responsible for their own hair, make-up, and dressing, so that they can be there to support you and the flow of your day. Too many times I have watched expensive photography time disappear as brides rushed around in ratty old shirts and shorts, frantically doing the hair and make-up of the others around them, or reassuring their bridesmaids that yes, they do look amazing, instead of focusing on getting themselves ready and feeling good about their day. Assign specific people tasks such as bringing snacks, being in charge of the water (hydration is important) and champagne (so is a pre-ceremony toast), being in charge of your make-up touch ups throughout the day (especially lips), helping carry the dress/veil, helping the junior bridesmaids, flower girls, and ring bearers get dressed, etc. Don't take all of this on yourself.
  • Do you want to do a receiving line? This is something great to plan for as receiving lines can really eat into your photo time, especially if your wedding is over 100 people. If you don't want to do a receiving line (it's getting increasingly rare these days), ask your officiant to let the crowd know they are welcome to leave the ceremony once it has concluded, and that the happy couple will look forward to seeing them at the reception. Also plan on heading back down the aisle together and into a secluded place for a little together-time. This prevents spontaneous receiving lines from forming.
  • Be sure you serve some kind of snacks at your cocktail hour! Otherwise guests will be drunk and hangry by the time we return from our photo session, and will raid the dessert bar and/or eat all the rolls. I have been at weddings where catering ran out of rolls due to ravenous, tipsy guests eating all of them before dinner had even started!
  • Make sure your families know when they are expected for photos and arrange a meeting place with them. This is especially important if your ceremony and reception are in different places. Too many times I've had grandparents, and sometimes even parents, disappear and head off to cocktail hour at the reception site while we were supposed to be taking family photos in the church.
  • If it's more than immediate family, it's easiest to do family photos after the ceremony. Getting family to show up, dressed up, and on time for photographs prior to the ceremony is often difficult and can make for a stressful start to the day. Too many times I've seen Uncle Kevin and Aunt Toni pull their classic I'm-running-just-a-bit-behind routine and then arrive 10 minutes late to the ceremony. All the pictures they are in end up getting moved to after the ceremony anyway, cutting into time the newlyweds had allotted to something else important to them. Family photos prior to the ceremony is best only if you have a very small family that are involved in the wedding and committed to your vision.
  • Discuss family photo expectations with all sets of parents/siblings ahead of time. Your families may have some thoughts about family group photos they want to get. It's best to figure out what you want first. Then talk about this ahead of time with your families and discuss what you are willing to accommodate during family photo time. Be sure to incorporate any extra photo requests you are accommodating into your family photo list. This way, we can avoid a relative hijacking the photo session with their own secret family photo agenda. You are welcome to invite relatives who would "like a photo of my family together all dressed up" to find me during cocktail hour or at the reception to take that photo in a more informal way, when I have more open time. This will help keep the flow of your family photo wish list going smoothly and protect the short amount of time we usually have to take family formals.
  •  Make sure your guests know the schedule of what's going on. I've seen guests on the verge of mutiny during cocktail hour, not knowing where the bride and groom were (taking pictures off-site at a different location, which can take a while) and not knowing what was coming next. Post a schedule near the seating chart, on the bar, or list it on the back of the program. As long as people are in the know, and have snacks, they'll be happy.
  • Plated dinners often take a lot more time than buffets do, as does having to flip a room after dinner. If having to move dinner tables to create a dance floor is a feature of your venue, seat younger people without families at these tables, if possible, and make sure they are at the top of the service/buffet list. These guests will finish dinner faster, and be more likely to be up and moving around to socialize when it comes time to flip the room. 
  • Have you considered having an unplugged wedding? Reassure your guests that I am a professional documenting the day, and will have a sneak peek of a handful of images from your wedding day ready for sharing on Facebook/via email within 48 hours. You'll also have a link to an online gallery for sharing once the entire set of images are finished and uploaded!
  • Sweet treats: your caterer might have some thoughts about when you need to cut your cake! If you have a cake that will be served to everyone, your caterer might ask you to cut the cake right after you are announced into dinner, so they have time to cut and plate cake slices during the dinner service. If you are doing donuts, cupcakes, ice cream bar, sheet cake, etc. and just cutting a ceremonial small cake, that can be done at any time. I like to put it on the schedule so we know it's coming and I can make sure to photograph the cake before and during the cutting!

Need some help?

Please feel free to get in touch for planning assistance or questions about your day!

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