In keeping with my style of photography I really don’t want to tell you guys how to run your day. There are all sorts of things going on and different suppliers (florists, hair, make up, the venue) – will all have input on when certain parts of the day should start and end, so this is just a gentle guide of what may be ideal in regards to photos and how I usually time things. The important thing for me is that I fit in photos (the formal ones) with your day and that they don’t detract from you enjoying yourselves.
Getting ready / Morning Prep
I typically start between 2-3 hours before your ceremony time. Usually this is anywhere between 12 midday and 3 in the afternoon so if your wedding ceremony was at 1pm I would start my photography at the getting ready stage between 10am and 11am. This is an ideal time to start because you will be awake, fresh, and most likely would have had something to eat with hair and make-up well on underway. No one wants me starting at 8/9am when people are just getting out of the shower and eating breakfast. Rest assured you don’t need to do anything, I start off very relaxed, just snapping what’s in front of me, capturing you guys having a bit of a laugh getting ready for the day ahead. If where you are getting ready is a trip away from your ceremony location then I usually like to leave 30 minutes before you do, so my advice is that if you want any photos of you once fully dressed then you may want to think about being ready within good time. The hour before you leave can get quite busy so it’s just something to bear in mind.
If you guys are planning a confetti shot, the best time to do it is almost straight after the ceremony. Once married, people are likely to want to greet you and say hello so sometimes the best thing to do is for you to hide and then reappear once I’ve organised a bit of a confetti line with some help from weddings guests/ushers/bridesmaids. A good tip is to assign one or two people with the responsibility of making sure the confetti is to hand when needed and to help me arrange people into a tunnel/confetti line. Whilst this is one of the few “staged” images of the day I’ll do, it’s great fun, and makes for a great photo :)
Reception/Arrival Drinks/Canapé Time
If you have a coordinator/planner for your wedding then you will usually have some advice and a bit of a discussion from them about what is best to do – but I find 1.5-2 hours of time in-between the end of your ceremony and before you sit down for your meal is a good amount of time to have a bit of a drink, say hello to guests and fit in your group photos. This is also one of the best times of the day for me to grab the natural photos of your guests enjoying themselves. This is also something to bear in mind if you have a large amount of travel time between your ceremony location and your reception. As an example, if you are getting married at a church and the ceremony ends at 2pm and then you plan to get to the reception which is 30 minutes away and sit down for 3.30pm this would only leave an hour to fit all your canapés, mingling and group photos, which leaves me limited time to get documentary images. It’s definitely possible for all of this to be done in that example, but things can feel a little rushed. 1-5-2 hours for this period gives you more of a chance for leeway if certain things run behind. Fear not if your venue has already got things set – I judge every wedding by how it unfolds on the day, as it happens and plan accordingly :)
I like to get these done after the ceremony during your reception time, but I don’t always recommend doing them straight away. After the ceremony you will likely be a tiny bit overwhelmed (with happiness!) and all your family and friends will want to come and congratulate you. It’s usually a busy time so I like to take a step back and leave you to mingle and meet and greet people, giving you chance to grab a drink and for everyone to get some canapés if you are having any. After 20/30 minutes – I’ll come and see if you want to start them and then coordinate with whoever you have assigned to help me out with group photos. Once we have got them done, you should still have some time left to carry on mingling and saying hi to everyone before we head off for some day portraits.
Couple photos of just the two of you
I like things to be organic so just before everyone is about sit down for the meal I like to peel you both away. During this time, guests will be taking a little bit of time finding their places, grabbing a quick drink from the bar to take with them and perhaps nipping off to the car to grab something. This is an ideal time for me to take you both away as it normally takes 15-20 minutes for people to sit down. Plenty of time for us to grab some photos and an ideal time for you to have a little breather and catch up whilst I capture some natural photos of yourselves. This is the best time to grab some day portraits to get some of just the two of you in the bag. If we are blessed with some lovely evening light we can also pop out once more to get some couple shots – you may also be a little more relaxed in the evening too!
The timing of this is definitely something that will be done in tandem with your venue/caterers because if you have your food before or after the speeches, they will be the ones who want to coordinate timings. One thing that can happen depending on the time of year is that one of the courses or speeches may be happening around sunset. If you are up for some nice golden hour photos then be prepared for me to possibly peel you away again. I certainly won’t tear you away from your food mid bite or mid speech, but I may just pop my head in and say “hey guys, if you are done with your first course, let’s slip away quickly for 10 minutes as the light is awesome outside!” If you have your heart set on some golden hour photos (and the weather permits) it may be worth just asking anyone doing a speech how long their speech may take. If you have 4 speeches and they all last 20 minutes and are all done in a row around golden hour you may reduce your risk of being able to nip away for some some sunset photos. If in doubt google your wedding day’s sunset time (I always do this for every wedding so I can try and fit in some evening couple pics If we are blessed with those lovely skies) I’m not saying avoid doing your speeches around this time but it’s just good to be mindful of what is going on around sunset. (e.g a midsummer wedding in July – sunset is often around 9pm so you have nothing to worry about)
Daylight and Winter weddings
Talking about sunset is something that leads me to light. If your wedding is in summer you have quite a lot of daylight and can afford to have your ceremony early or even a little later in the afternoon, but if your wedding is winter, the light can be gone after 4pm. Throw weather into the equation and you may even have less of a window for your formal photos. While my aim is to get your group/family photos done in 20-30 minutes or less, this can get interrupted by weather sometimes and stretch things out a bit. If you are having a winter wedding and the light is gone around 4pm, I often recommend having your ceremony no later than 1pm. After doing tons of weddings over the years in rain, snow, storms and all kinds of weather I have always successfully managed to do the formal group/family photos outdoors and indoors with minimal fuss – but an earlier ceremony time is definitely something to consider if you are having a winter wedding.
Basically, it’s your day and there are no hard or fast rules although taking a little time to consider when things may or may not be happening can really help a lot. I really do fit my photos into your day so like my wedding photo tips blog, please don’t let it worry you at all – it really is just here as a bit of a reference and help.