DP has enlisted the help of wedding photographer Fiona Kelly to share all the things she wishes her clients knew before the wedding… and timing is everything!
One of the first things I’m asked for advice on is timings on your wedding day. My couples ask for help to work out what time the wedding photography should start and finish, how to work out timings for hair and make-up, how long they should have for their drinks reception, when dinner should start and when they should aim to do the first dance.
Most of the time the wedding venue will help with this, they generally have a wedding co-ordinator who will work out the timings during the reception. Your other suppliers should also be able to give their advice on how long it will take them to do their job, but here’s a guide to ideal wedding photography timings so you to have a perfect schedule on your wedding day with time for all the photos you want to get.
The Wedding Morning – Getting Ready
To capture the main events of the morning, with hair and make-up, detail shots and what’s going on generally I like to allow for between 90 minutes to 2 hours before I leave for the ceremony. This makes for a relaxed morning and gives me time to capture things properly. If your wedding is more intimate or you are getting ready in the same place as the ceremony you might not need so long.
If the groom is getting ready at the same place then it’s possible to capture photos of both of you, for this you would need about 2 hours. If I have a second photographer for the day they are with the groom in the morning, so there’s no need to split the time and I’ll stay with the bride.
A civil ceremony will generally last about 20-30 minutes, while a church ceremony will generally be 45-60 minutes. If you’re having confetti do check about any restrictions to where you can throw this. After the ceremony it takes about 5-10 minutes to arrange your guests in a couple of lines to do the confetti. Either wait at the exit to greet your guests as they leave and then line up for confetti – this is nice for you to say hello to everyone, but does take a little longer. Otherwise you can tuck yourselves away somewhere after walking down the aisle and stay hidden while all your guests leave the ceremony. This way you can then exit to confetti and big cheers from your guests.
If your ceremony is in winter (October to March) I would recommend not starting your ceremony later than 1.30/2pm to get an hour of daylight after the ceremony to get your portraits and group photos done.
This is the time when you get to chat to your guests, have a drink and a canapé or two and enjoy the celebrations on your big day. This is the perfect time for a photographer to mingle and get lots of lovely natural and candid photos of you and your guests. This is also the time we would do your group photos, photos of the two of you and its the time to photograph all the details in the room where you are having the wedding breakfast. I recommend allowing a minimum of 1 hr 30 minutes but ideally 2 hours from arrival at the reception to sitting for food. To get the best from candid photos it’s important to have the time to wander and let your guests relax.
During winter it’s useful to bear in mind what time the sun sets, if you are wanting photos in daylight. The good thing with this is its possible to get beautiful winter sunset shots earlier in the day.
One of the things I do with all my couples is to send out an online final information form about a month before the wedding day. This helps me to put together a schedule for the day to ensure the best use of time during the reception.
I put together a blog post about wedding group photos made easy. They don’t need to be overly formal, I like to work quickly and make them fun and easy. There are things you can do to help with this, firstly agree the group shots before the day, so you know who is needed for the photos. Secondly, nominate a family member or one of the wedding party to assist in rounding up those who are needed in each photo. For groups of 6 people or less you should allow 2-3 minutes to round up, arrange and take the photo. For larger groups allow for 4-5 minutes. A photo of everyone at the wedding can easily take 10-15 minutes to sort out. It is also a good idea to allow another 5 minutes for any unexpected things, such as family members going awol! It happens…a lot! I recommend 10 group set ups, which should take about 30-35 minutes.
I love this time! It’s an opportunity for you to escape the hustle and bustle of the ceremony for a short while and spend a little time together. This is often the first chance you get to really chat after the ceremony and let it all sink in that you are married! I like to do two portrait sessions, one during the drinks reception and another in the early evening, hopefully capturing some beautiful sunset photos during golden hour. For winter weddings this isn’t always possible to capture sunset. For each session it’s nice to allow about 20 minutes. Sometimes it might be a little longer depending on the venue and how much wandering we do. There’s nothing to worry about with these photos, your photographer will chat and guide you so as to create lovely natural photos.
During the drinks reception I’ll make the time to pop into the room where you are having the wedding breakfast to photograph the room set-up and all the details, such as flowers, cake, table plan, favours. All the things you have spent the time planning, making and creating will be captured before your guests sit down. You want the photos before there are drinks all over the place and coats on every chair! I normally like to allow about 15 minutes for this to ensure capturing everything. If you have other decor throughout the reception venue these bits will be photographed during the drinks reception or while you are eating.
The speeches are a great time to capture candid photos of your guests. These generally happen before or after the meal, which is up to you both have their pros and cons. It normally takes about 30-40 minutes for 3 speeches (father of the bride, groom and best man).
Evening – Cake Cutting & First Dance
After the meal and speeches it’s time for the evening part of the celebrations to kick in. Depending on your venue set up they may have to turn the room around and make ready for the evening and the dancing. Even if they don’t have to do this you will generally have about 30-40 minutes to relax and chat with your guests. This is also the time when we can squeeze in a second little portrait session and get that early evening light at it’s best. Most people are milling around, getting drinks and letting food go down, so its a natural time to slip off for 15 minutes.
You can cut the cake straight after speeches or wait until just before first dance. Either way it will only take about 5 minutes, to give time for your guests to get their cameras ready. Its then time for the first dance. This is the bit that kicks off the evening party and is the last of the ‘official’ parts of the day, after that it’s time to relax and let your hair down with your guests.
You can probably work out from this there is a lot that goes on during the wedding day! If your wedding day is short on time, it can end up being stressful at times and not the lovely, relaxing day you would like. Without enough time it can really limit the photos that can be captured, especially the natural and candid ones of your guests. These are the ones most couples love to have, but without a good amount of time during the reception it’s hard to do these justice.
The majority of couples will never have organised such a large event before so knowing how to work out timings and schedule everything is tricky. Hopefully this gives you some guidance and an idea of optimum times to make the most of your day and your photography.
If you want more information I’m always happy to help – you can see more of my work at fionasweddingphotography.co.uk