As the wedding season is almost here I thought I would address some common questions I am asked about wedding photography coverage. As a bride (and groom of course) you spend hours upon hours planning your day and making sure all the details come together seamlessly. Finally all the vendors are lined up, invitations sent, bridal gown is picked out, flowers are ordered and it seems like most of the hassle should be over with. And then your photographer sends you a looong list of questions and you are back at square one. “What would be your preference for intimate portraits: before or after the ceremony?” “What time this… and what time that?..” All the while the bride might be thinking ” well, shouldn’t YOU tell me when we need to do it?” So I will try to describe all the aspects of wedding photography coverage and how much time is needed for what and I hope this will help some of you:)
My photography coverage usually starts with the bride getting ready. It is a very fun time to document the excitement and sweet moments with her friends and family. Most of these shot are candids with little posing and an emphasis on details such as the wedding gown, shoes, jewelry and any other special objects that are part of the day. I usually arrive when the bride is putting final touches to her hair and make up and is ready to step into her gown. This generally takes 45 minutes to an hour and if the groom is getting ready at the same location I document some of those moments as well. After the bride and groom are ready its usually a good time to capture individual portraits of each of them as well as any portraits with the bridal party and family that do not require the bride and groom to see each other.
A wedding always reflects personalities of the bride and groom and details do not necessarily mean vintage mason jars and elaborate hand made decorations: this can be a location chosen by the couple or the fact that they are treating everyone to a super-secret recipe barbecue dinner at the reception. And even though all wedding blogs these day go crazy about details of a wedding, I do not think that they should be more important than the people that came to celebrate this wonderful and joyous event. However details are an important part of my coverage: flowers, wedding gown, venue and ceremony sight are vital to document since the day passes very quickly and you might not even remember all the little things that made your day very special. I always encourage the couples to share with my any personal and meaningful details they are putting together for the wedding as well as having printed stationary such as invitations available to be photographed at the wedding. For example, one of my couples got married at the site where the bride’s parents had married some 20 years ago. So they brought wedding photographs of their parents and we used them as a part of their intimate portraits. Details are usually captured throughout the day and do not require much time set aside for them: I generally like to be present at the ceremony/reception site half an hour before the guests get there so I can get good images without disturbing anyone or people cluttering the background.
This is a tricky one:) I usually present couples with a choice of not seeing each other until the bride walks down the isle or doing the “first look” in which case the bride and groom meet for intimate portraits beforehand. And while I always respect the couple’s preference I am happy to give recommendations for their day. The obvious advantages of the first look is generally having more time for the portraits which I consider to be one of the most important parts of my wedding coverage. These are the photographs that make up the bulk of wedding albums, that get enlarged and hung in the newlyweds’ homes and sent along with the thank you cards. The first look also gives me a better angle of coverage when the couple first sees each other and I can document their emotion so well while I am a bit limited during the ceremony by everyone present. I like having 45 minutes to an hour for these intimate portraits and planning them before the ceremony enables the bride and groom to be present at most of their reception as well as choosing a different location than the wedding site for these images. That being said, the only time I really recommend doing the first look is in case of a winter evening wedding with no natural light available afterwards. In any other case I am happy to do them after the ceremony during the cocktail hour after we are done with the family formals (more about those below). Its always fun to think of props and fun ideas for the photographs they do not have to be super formal.
Bridal party portraits include photographs of the bride with the bridesmaids and groom with the groomsmen as well as shots of the bride with each bridesmaid and groom with each groomsman individually. Followed by images of the entire bridal party with the bride and groom. Most of these shots are done before the ceremony, in cases where the couple does not see each other before the ceremony the bridal party should be ready to take portraits during the cocktail hour. Depending on the size of the bridal party you should plan anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for these portraits.
The ceremony is documented in an unobtrusive photojournalistic style and usually does not require any preparations except for a location walk through with your photographer (commonly done at the rehearsal). In cases of an inside ceremony remote lights need to be set up but they are generally not in anyone’s way and enable the photographer to produce better light for the event than the on-camer flash. Outside ceremonies are my personal favorites as they allow me to move freely and document the emotion of the event from different angles.
Family formals are usually done right after the ceremony and depending on the number of people can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. I generally recommend preparing a separate list of all persons included in these portraits as well as informing the family members that they are to be present at this time. Its always a good idea to discuss this with the bride and groom’s parents as they might have different expectations on the wedding day (for example, the mom of the bride might want a lot of individual shots with the bride and her siblings etc and all along the bride is thinking she will only do one family shot). The traditional shots include bride and groom with their parents and immediate family respectively.
Reception is again documented in a more photojournalistic style although I usually ask the guests to pose for some photographs as I believe they are important for the bride and groom – remembering all their friends and family that shared their celebration. That being said I still like to have a schedule of the reception that includes first dance, cake cutting, toasts etc. The schedule helps me to be ready and not miss any vital parts of the reception. I generally do not take photos during dinner as they are unflattering (yes, no one likes photos of them chewing food, including myself!) and some couples have me stay longer until their formal exit if they are planning one.
As a rule the most comfortable window of time to capture a wedding is about 8-10 hours, but even 6 hours will give me enough time to cover all the vital details. I spend a lot of time planning and preparing for each event to minimize stress for the couple and family on the day of the event but of course I cannot do this without the bride and groom’s help. I trust this information might be a helpful resource to some of you while planning! And as always you are more than welcome to contact me with any questions:)