Collaborating with Your Photographer 101: Plan a Wedding Day Itinerary That (Really) Works For You

02 | 11 | 2009

Your photographer wants you to have a wonderful wedding—the kind of seamless experience that works with the kind of wedding day you want to have, rather than fights against it. That is, we want you to have both the wedding you want and the beautiful photographs to remember it by. And all of us photographers know that it is much easier to make flattering photographs of people who are truly enjoying themselves. People who are not stressed out.

A healthy dose of realism goes a long way in preventing stress.  So a lot of what Pursuing the Picture Perfect Wedding will deal with is what I like to call the pre-wedding reality check—reconciling your expectations (for the wedding, not just for photography) with the reality of time constraints.  The wedding is only one day, after all.

There are a few misconceptions photographers deal with that affect the wedding day plans (and therefore, the itinerary, the “time constraints”) directly.  The first misconception is that hiring a hiring a wedding “photojournalist” means that you do not need to take time to make photographs. Or that making great photographs—from any style photographer—requires no effort on the part of the subject (i.e., the bride and groom).

This is simply not true.  If you want beautiful portraits of you and your husband (posed, unposed, candid, relaxed), you’ll want to get away from the busy-ness of the rest of the wedding so you can interact with each other. Alone.  And ideally, you’ll get to do this in a beautiful, uncluttered environment, during the day’s best light. You’d be surprised to see how, if you’re not vigilant, your “intimate portrait” time can get whittled down with other distractions and obligations.  So it’s smart to allow at least 30 minutes for portraits of you and your husband.

If you want photographs with your family and bridal party (and you probably do—they are an important part of your family history), then you’ll need to make time for those, too. We suggest limiting the group photographs to the most essential combinations—extended and immediate family, parents, grandparents (if present), and siblings (if applicable) on both sides; whole bridal party, bride and her attendants, groom and his.  Not everybody even elects to have a photograph with the extended families.  Depending on the number of people involved in the photos, a streamlined series of group photographs can take about 30 minutes. *

(An aside: if you want lots of photographs with your friends, family, and guests, ask your photographer if she can do a photo booth.  It’s really fun for absolutely everybody and it doesn’t take away any time from other wedding day festivities).


(I took the above photograph at a wedding at St. Andrew’s in Scotland. A neighbor saw the wedding ceremony and offered their garden for portraits afterwards.  Because we had all planned time to take a long walk and make portraits, we were able to jump at the opportunity. It was a happy detour and the garden photographs added a welcome spot of color to their wedding album.)

The other misconception, which is nearly related to the first, is that you can get away with not planning time for the things that are going to have to happen on your wedding day. For instance, a lot of couples think they can skip seeing each other beforehand and not miss any of their cocktail hour/reception—and still come away with great photographs.  This, too, simply isn’t true. There are a several different ways to plan your itinerary, but planning it without time for the things that need to happen—like getting your hair and makeup done, like getting yourself to your venues, like taking some photographs—spells disaster, or at least disappointment and lots of stress. Let me say again, stressed out people look stressed out in photographs.  And even I had to submit to getting my hair and makeup done and taking posed family photographs at my own wedding.

So, allow time for everything you are planning to do: get your hair done, get your makeup done (these things often run upwards of 45 minutes behind, so I suggest padding your itinerary early in the day), get dressed (allow more time for a complicated gown), get to your venues, get married, take photographs, make toasts, eat dinner, etc., etc.  If you want anything special or unusual, for instance, a vintage process photograph that may require a little extra time to set up and take … allow time for that, too.

In the next post, we are going to show several different, workable itineraries.  If you have questions about how long things typically take, ask your photographer and other vendors.  Chances are, they’ve worked at hundreds of weddings and have a very reliable sense of how things go and what works in a wedding day itinerary.

photo credit: Gia Canali


*Note: A disproportionate amount of time goes into planning what amounts to about eight family photos and three bridal party photographs—it’s only because there are so many people involved and your photographer wants to make sure it goes as efficiently as possible  … Don’t get stressed out that you somehow got tricked into hiring a so-called “traditional” photographer.  Your photographer is just trying to help you make the most of your time. You don’t want to be away from your guests and party for an hour … maybe an hour and ten minutes.


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