There’s nothing better than a stress-free wedding day when everything runs on time, people are ready to take pictures when you need them, and you have creative freedom to do your job well. Can I get a ‘fo-sho’ from my wedding peeps out there?
And you know what the best part is? There’s a lot that you can do as a photographer to make sure that these kinds of wedding days happen more often than not, which is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. In fact, the photographer and the wedding coordinator have the most control over how a wedding day is run, which means two things:
1) You get to create the best photography schedule to help make you successful
2) You need to figure out the best photography schedule to help make the wedding successful
The Why: Everything we do centers upon the client experience. We need to set ourselves up for success with every wedding we shoot, because it is our job to create the best wedding day experience we possible can for our couples and their families. This means serving our couples with their best interest in mind, and creating a schedule that is relaxing and stress-free.
Alright, let’s get on to the nitty-gritty. Below is our basic schedule that we use for every wedding. Obviously every wedding is different, but this is the kind of schedule we always shoot for.
11:30 Getting Ready & GR Details
1:30 Dress On; Final Touches
2:00 First Look / Portraits
2:30 Family Portraits
3:00 Bridal Party
3:30 Break / Details, Details!
4:00 Ceremony Begins
4:30 Ceremony Ends
4:40 The Couple (Gravy Time!)
5:10 Couple Joins the Cocktail Hour
5:30 Grand Entrance to Reception
Here are some notes on the schedule:
Getting Ready: We always give ourselves plenty of time to shoot getting ready details such as jewelry, the shoes, the dress, cufflinks, makeup being done, etc. We don’t want to feel rushed, so we build that time into the schedule. We also schedule a specific time for the dress to go on, and we allow at least 30 minutes for this. This helps the makeup artists, hair stylists, Mom, and bridesmaids know when they need to be done, dressed, and ready (and allows for a cushion if they run late). It won’t take 30 minutes to put on most dresses, but it allows the bride to relax while she puts on her dress, slips on jewelry, hugs her mom, and laughs with her bridesmaids. Plus, we get to spend a few minutes photographing just her before heading out for the First Look.
First Look: Again, we allow 30 minutes of time for this. This means we can let the couple relax and enjoy hanging out with each other for ten to fifteen minutes, and then we can grab all of our “have-to-have” shots (ie couple looking at the camera, individual portraits, bouquet, boutonnière, etc). We capture so many candid, emotional moments during the First Look simply because we allow time for the couple to relax, feel their emotions, talk about the day, and live in the moment. And again, if worse comes to worse and things ran late during the getting ready process, we don’t need to use the full 30 minutes – we can relax through the first look, grab a few portraits, and just move right into the family portraits and make up some time.
Family Portraits: Doing the family portraits BEFORE the ceremony accomplishes a number of things: 1) There are no distractions so we can move quickly (no pulling people from the black hole that is the cocktail hour), 2) we save that amazing light after the ceremony for just the couple, and 3) family can immediately enjoy the cocktail hour and greet their wedding guests right after the ceremony. Believe me, family portraits used to be the most stressful part of the day for us, and now it’s one of the most relaxing and stress-free portions of our job!
Details, Details: Once we’re done with family, we move through the bridal party pictures and then it’s time to hide the couple away as wedding guests start to arrive. The half an hour before the ceremony is the best time to capture all of the wedding details, and we work with our couple, the coordinator, and the catering manager to make sure that everything is completely set up at this time. This is the only way we’re able to capture as many details as we do – we make them a priority and we schedule time specifically for this purpose.
The Couple: Once the ceremony is over, it’s time for the fun part! Because we’ve taken all of the necessary “have-to-have” images before the ceremony, everything we take during this time is just gravy – and boy is it good gravy! The light will be beautiful, the couple is excited, and we can relax and get into the groove of shooting. Normally we only need to shoot for about half of the cocktail hour, and then the couple can choose to join their guests– and enjoy those specialty cocktails and appetizers that they picked out – or hide away and spend some time with each other before the craziness of the reception. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy your wedding day!
This type of schedule has brought us amazing results – not only are we shooting according to the best light of the day, but we’re allowing for vendors or people that may run late. Again, every wedding has different logistics, but these are the basic guidelines that we strive for. And to give credit where credit is due, we have learned about a lot of this scheduling stuff from other amazing photographers, including our good friends over at Bauman Photographers in San Diego. Thanks you guys! We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for so many amazing individuals like you guys!
Written by Erin Youngren
Jeff and Erin Youngren are international wedding and lifestyle photographers running one of the fastest growing boutique studios in the competitive Southern California market. Although based in San Diego, their deeply emotional style and passionate partnership has taken them from the streets of San Francisco to the canals of Venice to the family suburbs of Chicago to photograph extraordinary weddings and incredible couples. As leaders in the photographic community, they are passionate about helping other photographers build viable, authentic businesses, while building a photography community built on integrity and honest leadership.