No two weddings are the same, and different couples have different priorities – which is what makes weddings exciting! If your wedding portraits are a big priority for you or if you’d like to display them in your home as art, then you’ll generally need to allow more time for your wedding portraits than someone who cares more about candid guest shots or family group photos. I’m not the kind of photographer who thinks the bridal portraits are the Most Important Part of the Day (every part of the day is important!), so I won’t suggest we take three hours and visit 4 different locations (unless that’s what you want to do!) I do have a few suggestions about how to plan your timeline though, and a few factors you should take into account – so hit that video above if you’re a watcher, or if you’re a reader – read on!
Where do we start?
If you have a smallish bridal party (one or two bridesmaids and one or two groomsmen) and aren’t planning to travel away from your ceremony/reception venue for your photographs, then I advise my clients to allow an hour for their bridal portraits. We start with everyone in, get some great bridal party shots with different combinations (i.e. girls, boys, everyone, individual shots, the bride with each bridesmaid and the groom with each groomsman), then send them back to your guests so you don’t have an audience for the pictures with just the two of you. Sometimes we might keep one bridesmaid or groomsman to help carry our stuff (especially if it’s raining), or toss the veil for a dramatic photo!
If you have a big bridal party, need to travel away from your venue(s) to get your pictures or are keen on visiting multiple locations, then we need to take a few more factors into account.
If you plan to have your wedding portraits taken after the ceremony, we need to take into account the sunset time, the length of your ceremony, the starting time of your reception, and those elements between the ceremony and bridal portraits like greeting your guests and taking family portraits. Those can take up a lot more time than you’d think, and if we run late there, we’ll have less time to capture your wedding portraits. Allowing enough time for everything before your portraits will mean we don’t have to cut your photo session short, which can mean the difference between a few great portraits and a whole portfolio of them. Having your portraits before the ceremony will be a huge time saver later, but it may mean sacrificing the lovely afternoon light – so if you want magical sunset photos at sweeping vistas, we need to factor this in too (plus tide times, for beach brides!) Allow an hour for greeting guests and family photos to keep things from running late (and getting stressful). I have another post about that here!
The bigger your bridal party, the more time we’ll need. I like to take shots of the whole bridal party, just the girls, just the boys, a solo portrait of each member, a shot of the bride with each of her girls one at a time, and a shot of the groom with each of his boys one at a time. Factor in the nibbles, because you’ll all be hungry after the ceremony, and the time needed to round them all up and get them into cars, and we’ve added on an extra fifteen minutes to half an hour already. It might be a good idea to let your bridal party know ahead of time that they need to be ready after the family photos to jump straight into the photos, so they shouldn’t disappear!
If your ceremony and reception venues are quite far away from each other, or you’re interested in multiple locations for your wedding photographs (or both), then we need to allow plenty of time for travel. Check out GoogleMaps for ALL of your wedding day routes – if you want to get extra organisation points, look them up on the same day of the week as your wedding, and program in the time you’ll be taking them. Then allow an extra 5-10 minutes on what GoogleMaps tells you, and take that into account for your schedule. Friday afternoon city traffic, weekend highway traffic on sunny days and public holiday traffic jams can completely destroy your timeline plans if you forget to factor them in.
Once we park the car(s) at our photo destination, we also need time to get everyone out of the cars, get to our location and get everyone in place. If you’ve got beach photos, epic ocean views or any other ideas in mind that might, on a normal day, be considered a nice walk, remember that you’ll be doing them in a wedding dress or suit, possibly heels, and you might need to get to a slightly difficult spot for the best photo. I’ll also be clambering over rocks and up hills to get the shot! A good rule of thumb is to allow 15 miniutes to half an hour longer than you think we’ll need for your total photo experience. That way if anything runs late or goes wrong, you don’t have to sacrifice something else to make up for that lost time.
This might seem like a lot of work, but I’m a big believer that preparation before the day means you can relax and go with the flow when the day arrives, and spend your time being present for every moment rather than worrying about the traffic or rounding up your bridal party.