Tag Archives: schedule

Collaborating With Your Wedding Photographer, 113: Planning for a Picture Perfect First Dance

02 | 18 | 2011

The first dance is such a sweet moment in the wedding day.  It’s a challenge for shy brides and grooms (since all eyes are on you!), but I think it’s a particularly lovely tradition, one that can yield some fantastic photographs, and one that deserves some thoughtfulness in the planning of your wedding day.  Here are a few easy tips to get you started:

1. Choose that just-right song.

Emotion in real life = emotion in your real photographs.  The song can be magical or meaningful, sentimental or just plain fun, but definitely choose one that makes you two dance.

2. Consider the lighting and space you’ll use.

Lighting can add drama, but it also shows off your faces.  And I know I’m always reminding folks about their grannies, but your grannies will be glad they can see your faces, too.  This might mean planning your first dance just before or after sunset if you are planning an outdoor reception.  Or it could mean bringing in lighting to accent the dance floor if you’re planning an indoor or late night outdoor reception.

3. Practice!

I don’t necessarily mean you have to take dance lessons, though I have seen—and thoroughly admired!—some spectacular choreographed and rehearsed first dances.  Practice could simply mean slow dancing around your living room a few times before the wedding (which you’ll probably love anyway at that point in the planning!).

photos: Gia Canali


Collaborating With Your Wedding Photographer, 110: Optimizing For A Limited Hour Package

01 | 25 | 2011

{click any image to enlarge}

Sometimes, getting the photographer of your dreams means going with partial day coverage instead of full-day coverage.  And if that’s what you need to do, do it.  But—if there’s any way you can help it—don’t skimp on coverage early in the day.  Unfortunately, photographs of getting ready are often the first thing to go with limited photographic coverage.  Not only is the getting-ready time a beautiful ritual in and of itself, but it’s one you and your fiance generally go about separately from each other.

Adding time on the day of the event won’t necessarily give you time earlier on in the day when you’d have really needed it. So it’s a good idea not to rely on adding coverage on the day of the wedding.  In any case, proper advance planning should tell you how much time you should budget for.

photos: Gia Canali


Collaborating With Your Wedding Photographer, 109: Planning Picture Perfect Wedding Toasts

07 | 15 | 2010

wedding toast

We love wedding toasts!  For one thing, hearing how other folks love the bride and groom makes us—and everybody at a wedding, I think—adore the bride and groom even more.  And the photographs of the bride and groom and the guests reacting to toasts can be so fun (though, in fact, that could go either way if the toasts are deadly-long or if there are too many of them, come to think of it).

Somehow, toasts are more-often-than-not overlooked in the orchestration and choreography of the wedding day—but they’re important because the toasts themselves can be very meaningful and the photos do actually sometimes make it into the finished wedding album. So, naturally, you want the toasting photos to be their best selves.  (And don’t think that this magically won’t happen to you on your wedding day … )


father of the bride toast bridesmaid toast

Here are a few easy tips for setting yourself up to have picture perfect toasts:

  1. Have the speaker stand somewhere with a nice background and nice light, even if that spot is right at his or her dinner table.  Ample ambient light is the best kind.
  2. Please don’t put your toaster in front of an EXIT sign. (This is just an expansion of point #1, I suppose).
  3. Make sure your photographer is present. If you have a planner, he or she can help with this.  If you are diy-planning, you’ll need to keep an eye on this yourself.  Although your photographer may stick close by your side the entire rest of the day, during dinner time, she could be off taking photographs in another part of the event, or trying to take a quick dinner break.  If unscheduled or unannounced toasts happen, she can miss them.
  4. Toasts REALLY TRULY need to be short and sweet.  Haute wedding planner, Yifat Oren, notes,”it’s a toast, not a roast.  Toasts should be short and sweet and moving and anecdotal. The longest amount of time for any one toast should be seven minutes, but preferably no longer than five.  You can say a lot in seven minutes.”  And, “if you’re planning to have 35 minutes of toasts, don’t do it all at once.”  It’s hard for the guests to sit through a bunch of long toasts (read: boring) and can bring the whole party to a halt. If someone really wants to give a long toast or say something much more expansive to or about you and your beloved, the rehearsal dinner might afford a better and more intimate opportunity for that kind of thing.

bride toasting

Check back tomorrow for an interview with Yifat, full of tips from celebrity weddings that are applicable to weddings on any budget.

photographs: Gia Canali


Collaborating With Your Photographer 101: Plan a Wedding Day Itinerary That (Really) Works For You, ii. Some Sample Itineraries

02 | 11 | 2009

Here are some sample itineraries and guidelines. There are, of course, many variations on each.  This is just meant to be a starting point for considering the kind of flow you’d like your day to have. One thing to keep in mind—if at all possible, plan to take the most important photographs during the best light of the day (theoretically the portraits of you and your beloved and likely just before sunset for an evening wedding).

Option 1. Not seeing each other before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready. I like to photograph the last hour or hour and a half of this process, including the putting on of the dress. Photographs are generally much better after the makeup goes on … and there’s not too much to photograph when you are in a chair. I also recommend scheduling the bride to go first for hair and makeup.
  • Ceremony.
  • Family and Wedding Party Photographs.
  • Intimate Portraits (you’ll be skipping your cocktail hour to do this).
  • Reception.  If you are trying save money on photography, plan to do the “events” of the reception at the beginning, including toasts, first dances, and cake cutting.  The reception also usually lasts for hours, so after dinner is served, you can catch up on time if you’re running behind.

Pros – Things flow very quickly, and if well-planned can feel very spontaneous. This is also a good schedule for morning or noontime weddings with lunch receptions.
Cons – You spend a good part of your wedding day (maybe until 6pm) away from your husband.  Things may go by too quickly, or you’ll feel rushed.

Option 2. Seeing each other (but nobody else) before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready.
  • First Sight. (A quick meeting for the first time.  It’s nice to have the first time you see each other not be a production … it’s fun, memorable, and usually a good photo op.)
  • Intimate portraits.
  • Ceremony.
  • Family and Wedding Party Photographs
  • You go to the last part of your cocktail hour.
  • Reception

Pros – You might enjoy a little more peaceful time with your spouse. And you might be more present for your reception.
Cons – You may not be getting your portraits in the best light of the day.

Option 3. Seeing each other and just doing group photos before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready.
  • First Sight. (A quick meeting for the first time.  It’s nice to have the first time you see each other not be a production … it’s fun, memorable, and usually a good photo op. We’ll talk more about this soon in a future post.)
  • Family and Wedding Party Photographs
  • Ceremony.
  • Intimate portraits.
  • You go to the last part of your cocktail hour.
  • Reception

Pros – You might get to enjoy a little more time with your guests or more portraits, depending on your preference, and those un-rushed portraits might be during the best light.
Cons – It’s possible that things could feel a little slower and more staged if you do group photographs beforehand.

Option 4. Seeing each other beforehand and doing all the “organized” photographs before the ceremony.
  • Getting ready.
  • First sight.
  • Intimate portraits and wedding party and family photographs.
  • Ceremony.
  • Cocktail hour.
  • Reception.

Pros – You don’t miss any of the party, so you have lots of time with your guests.
Cons – You might miss the best light of the day.  And it’s possible things could feel a little slower and more staged.

Itinerary tips:
  1. If you have a big family and are doing group photos before the ceremony, consider making “call-times” for your family for the photographs.  It helps keep things moving without the total chaos of having 40 or more people standing around while you get your photographs taken.
  2. Be open to slipping away from your reception as the light changes for more portraits. We love to take a few nighttime portraits when the schedule permits.
  3. Be flexible.  Weddings are full of unpredictable moments.  Just try to enjoy whatever is actually happening with whoever is around you. Happiness always photographs well.

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.