YOUR WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
For you to get the most out of your wedding photography, I've summarized the flow of a typically wedding day timeline. After shooting 100+ weddings I’ve learned how I work best and would like to share these tips & tricks with you!
Check out my curated Pinterest board for FURTHER ideas on lighting, decor, florals, wedding attire etc.
1. GETTING READY
These are some of my favorite images and they are what set the tone for the rest of the day. I ask to have at least 1.5 to 2 hours to photograph your getting ready. You’ll want me to arrive about 30 minutes before your hair & makeup is finished (though please actually tell your hair and makeup to be done by the time I arrive to allot for wiggle room! It’s a nice little trick to keep things on time.)
If I have a second shooter, they will be with your Fiancé'. If it’s just me and depending on your getting ready locations, we will allot for at least 2+ hours to make sure I can cover you and your Fiancé'.
Aesthetic // Be careful that the genuine energy of getting ready isn't ruined by the aesthetic! A cluttered, messy, dark room can really take away from the beautiful moments unfolding. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Clutter // Keep clutter hidden and to a minimum. Put bags, suitcases, and food in another room. If I need to do a sweep before I begin shooting, I’ll miss a lot of important moments. A blank canvas (room) is best for creativity & portraits.
Light // Get ready in a room with lots of window light where we won’t need to use lamps or artificial light. This is key for beautiful & genuine images. Artificial light mixed in with window light is not ideal for color in photographs so I always prefer to turn lights off and rely only on natural light.
Hair + Makeup // Heavier “stage” makeup is not necessarily the best for photographs. Be you and be comfortable! I’d suggest doing your everyday make-up but with a little more definition to bring out your natural features. My work is very earthy so a more natural look tends to mesh best with how I edit.
Your Fiancé'! // Don’t forget about your partner! Sometimes they get left with the dark, tiny room. They are just as important and their photos will look way better as all of the above applies as well!
AirBnB // Hotels are not a photographer’s friend (unless they are boutique hotels lots of natural light, room to move around in, and an interesting aesthetic). If you can, I recommend looking into other options like a well lit AirBnB. This option can often be more affordable than a hotel and will provide you with a room full of character, authenticity and LIGHT! Use my link! —> Emily Gude for AirBnB
Location // Please make sure your getting ready locations are close by to your venue! If it gets to be 30min or more of traveling than it can really take away from the photos and your timeline. Traveling time between locations is included in my working time.
2. A FIRST LOOK
A first look is a private moment before the ceremony between you and your Fiancé'. This is totally optional (though I LOVE photographing first looks and I’ll usually suggest it for a better timeline flow). Here’s what a first look can do for you:
It calms the nerves // There is nothing that relaxes a nervous couple more than finally seeing each other and enjoying a few moments alone before the official events begin.
It gives you time to take it all in // You can share what you’re feeling, hug and actually say “you look amazing!”– all the things you can’t do when you’re at the ceremony with everyone watching.
It makes the timeline easier to work with // If you can see each other before the ceremony, we can take your family photos and/or wedding party photos before the ceremony as well! Your family/wedding party will also be able to enjoy the cocktail hour, and we can jump right into some genuine JUST MARRIED couple portraits right after the ceremony.
Of course if you’ve always dreamed of walking down the aisle as your first glimpse of each other then that is exactly what we'll do! Just make sure we can allot for at least 2 time slots for couple portraits (preferably right after your ceremony and at sunset).
3. GROUP PORTRAITS
The best time for family and wedding party portraits is before the ceremony since everyone is ready to go and no one will miss any of the cocktail hour or reception. I recommend keeping the formal family list to immediate family only and to save extended family + less formal group photos during the cocktail hour and/or reception. There will be a space for you to create a family portrait list when you fill out the questionnaire.
If family cannot be present & ready for photos at least an hour before the ceremony, another great option is to photograph your wedding party before the ceremony with your family photos after the ceremony.
Standard group photos //
Client 1 with: a. their wedding party + individually b. mom and dad, c. mom and dad and siblings if possible
Client 2 with: a. their wedding party + individually b. mom and dad, c. mom and dad and siblings if possible
Client 1 & Client 2 (the couple) with: Wedding party all together
The couple with: a. Couple 1's parents, b. Couple 1's parents, siblings, c. Bride's parents, siblings, grandparents
The couple with: a. Couple 2's parents, b. Couple 2's parents, siblings, c. Bride's parents, siblings, grandparents
Adding combinations // Every family is different and so some couples may add or subtract combinations (Just siblings or a picture of the couple with both sets of parents etc). Just keep in mind that each combination can take up to 4 minutes to organize, place and photograph.
4. COUPLE PORTRAITS
I recommend 2-3 portrait time slots of just you two together. This could be 15min at your first look, 15min right after the ceremony and/or 20min just before the sun sets.
1 - Why at first look? // This is when you’ve just gotten your attire on and the look is all set! You’re excited and anxious to see your Fiancé' so a first look can really be something special. I often get tears here more so than at the ceremony and it’s this lovely intimate moment.
2 - Why after the ceremony? // Because the pressure is off! And you’re ecstatic, giddy, in love, and ready to party! I’ve gotten some of the most joyful couple photos at this time.
3 - Why at sunset // Because it's when we get the best light and it’s when you’re ready to slow down. This is when my couples really get to take it all in (and is often their favorite part of the day). So I ask that you be in the moment and come back to why you’re getting married in the first place.
Trust // The most important thing to ensure we get great photos is trust. If you trust me to create the photos you’ll love, I’ll be able to do my thing and guide you best. It’s all about collaboration and trust!
If your ceremony is later in the day (closer to sunset) I highly suggest considering a first look with all group photos before the ceremony. This way we can jump right into your couple portraits right after the ceremony as the sun is setting.
5. CEREMONY + UNPLUGGED
An unplugged ceremony is when you ask your guests to refrain from taking any photos. Asking your guests not to use cameras or cell phones allows guests to be present without fussing with cell phones and flashes.
Please remember that our agreement includes no other photographers (this includes Uncle Bob with his big fancy camera and vendors). In the past I’ve had photographs ruined by too many cell phones and flashes. It’s also difficult for me to hold your attention if there is a paparazzi situation. So no other photographers are allowed to be taking photographs at any time during your wedding. Please talk to your guests/vendors about this beforehand to really implement this.
Be present // Slow down and breathe. If you’re anxious just come back to the reasons why you’re so in love with the person in front of you. Look at your Fiancé' (not your officiant), hold their hands and speak your vows with intent, and just breathe.
Ceremony exits // I love suggesting ceremony exits rather than reception exits for a couple of reasons. 1 - Having me stay all the way through the reception can really take away from the beginning of the day. 2 - you may also appreciate a camera out of your face once it comes to partying! 3 - Your guests are fully present and will love the participation. 4 - I love flower petals and/or decomposable confetti! It is just so much easier to photograph! Have set up as your guests enter the ceremony or include it with the programs on their seats. And finally 5 - it gives the guests something to do rather than taking photos with their cell phones.
Ceremony lighting // Say no to spotty light! For an outdoor ceremony (especially in direct sun) it’s best to avoid spotty sunlight. Try to backlight (put the sun behind the alter) otherwise you’ll have funky spotty highlights on your faces in the photos.
6. RECEPTION + LIGHTING
Capturing the mood of your event is very important to me. This is why I don’t use flash other than for party photos. For a romantic mood, market lights (or string lights) and candles are THE BEES KNEES, and if you use enough, they’ll provide a great light source for photos. Just try to stay away from using only candles, or super dim lighting, which will make focusing trickier for me. If you’re unsure about your setup, just ask me and I’ll help!
DJ lights // While colored/flashy lights from your DJ might be fun for party time, they can really destroy the romantic mood of your first dance and special dances. If you are having colorful lights, I ask that they be turned off until party photos as they can create weird color spots on your face & the scene. For party time, go crazy with them and have fun! Just don’t turn off the string lights!! More light, better focus!
Reception Exits// I love getting right onto the dance floor for some epic dance shots! I typically stay for about 30min to 1 hour of the party and love it when the couple stays on the dance floor for at least one fast song as the party gets started. If you have you’re heart set on a reception exit, I ask that we do a staged one 15 minutes before I depart. I’ve witnessed too many accidents to stay all the way to the end of your reception for the exit. Sparklers are the only “exits” I can photograph as bubbles or glow sticks do not provide any sort of light source.
7. YOUR RAIN PLAN
No one wants to think it's going to rain on their wedding day, but planning ahead and embracing it can help relieve the stress. Let’s plan for option B. to be just as epic as option A.
Embrace it // Chances are you've hired me because you love the work in my portfolio most of which is outside. Of course, if it's a hurricane we'll stay where it's dry, but if it's just a drizzle or light rain, I suggest embracing it.
Rainy Ceremony // Some of my most romantic ceremony images were in the rain. Prepare your guests to bring umbrellas if it’s just a light drizzle and hold a clear umbrella for you and your Fiancé' to stand under as you get married. It’s super beautiful I promise!
Umbrellas + rain boots // I suggest purchasing these clear umbrellas from Amazon so that we can still utilize the outside - Clear Bubble Umbrellas. By Home-X (Clear). Get a couple for your wedding party as well so that we can take your group portraits outside. These specific umbrellas act as a natural diffuser and help to make skin tones even and soft for photos. Rain boots can bring the look together with the rainy setting (they’ll also be a lot more comfortable that heels). This could be your something blue (or forest green because forest green always photographs beautifully!) Check out these Hunter Boots!
Tents // The best kind of tents are clear top tents and are wonderful for the same reasons as the clear umbrellas - the natural light is amazing for photos. A white top tent will do as well, just make sure for whatever you pick, that there are ample amounts of string lights, candles/light sources on the tables.
8. JUST A FEW OTHER THINGS
Receiving lines// They can be very time consuming, especially for a larger guest list. They can also get exhausting and take away from the your excitement after the ceremony. However, I do love the energy right after you walk down the aisle, and your wedding party or family walks out and greets you, hugs you, kisses you, etc. So having a few minutes there to laugh and love is great. I just recommend that it not become a 20-40 minute event.
Photographer’s Dinner// It is ideal for me to be served as soon as dinner begins so that I can eat while guests are eating and be done in time for any toasts or dances that might happen during or at the end of dinner. The easiest way to do this is for me to be considered a “guest” as opposed to a “vendor.” Some caterers insist on serving vendors at the end of the meal, so please make sure you speak to your caterer about this so I don’t miss anything! If you have a buffet, I’m happy to go through it and grab my own food.