How To Arrange Your Wedding Day Schedule (according to an NYC Photographer): Part One

After selecting your date, venue, photographer and future spouse, arranging your schedule is often the most challenging part of the day. But where do you start? Below, you’ll find some suggestions based on our experience as an NYC wedding photographer.

A typical wedding schedule includes the following items:

  • Getting Ready
  • First Look and/or Portraits
  • Ceremony
  • Cocktail Hour
  • Reception

and it’s up to you (and your planner if you’re working with one) to determine how to subdivide the day. Based on what we’ve observed after shooting hundreds of weddings, here are some thoughts to keep in mind.

Getting Ready

This portion of your day will typically involve your hair stylist and makeup team at your hotel room, apartment, or venue depending on where you decide is the best fit. Before booking your hair and makeup artists (MUAs), make sure you’ve done a trial with them to see if they area a good fit for the kind of look you’re going for. Like photographers, hair and makeup artists often have their own style. If you’re happy with your trial, make sure to discuss the estimated amount of time to complete all members in your bridal party as well as any other family members (like moms). While a lot of MUAs are very professional and sensitive to the time constraints of the day, life sometimes gets in the way with delays. We’ve seen late family member arrivals, MUA’s getting lost on the way to the getting ready location and slow workflow result in delays which have almost resulted in a wedding being performed without an officiant. Just to be on the safe side, we recommend that whatever time estimate hair and makeup provide you, have them start around 45 minutes earlier than what they originally quote you. This extra buffer will help you manage any mishaps like late bridesmaids or uncooperative hair without having to worry about messing up the rest of your day. Make sure whomever you book brings a team with enough hair and makeup artists in order to complete the job on time. A good rule of thumb is about one MUA/stylist for every 5-6 people. Once you start approaching the 7-10 people per makeup artist/hair stylist ratio, you’re likely in for some major delays.

It’s during this time that your photographer and videographer will also likely be arriving. Have your maid/matron of honor or a family member help streamline this process by having them set aside all of the important details you would like captured, including your shoes, jewelry and dress. Once the photo/video team has been shown these items, they will be able to handle the rest. Make sure your photo/video team knows if you have a card from your future spouse that you’d like to read and have documented and/or a gift. Your photographer can suggest to you the best time to incorporate this into your getting ready routine. During this time, the second photographer/video team will be with your future spouse getting shots of their half of the bridal party and capturing a lot of the same kinds of photos with them.

After hair and makeup is complete, you’ll soon be getting into your dress. Decide if you’d like a few photos with you bridal party before you begin this process. At this point, your photographer may leave the room to give you some privacy and ask to be notified once you’re comfortable being photographed again. If you would instead like your photographer to be present for the entire portion of this process, just let him or her know. After you’re in your dress, your photographer will take pictures of the finishing touches, including any buttoning/zipping in the back as well as capture you putting on your shoes and any jewelry. From there, it’s on to the First Look and/or Portrait Session.

But how do you plan on getting there? Transportation is one of the most undervalued yet important parts of your wedding; after hair and makeup, it has the single largest impact on whether your timeline needs to be adjusted and something needs to be eliminated. Are you confident your driver knows where to go? On multiple occasions we’ve seen drivers get lost and/or go to the wrong hotel. Are you having the same driver shuttle you and the bridesmaids then return for the groom? We’ve seen traffic issues delay this process by over an hour. Make sure to discuss these issues with your transportation provider and run a few test routes via Google maps or a similar app to ensure you’ve created a buffer with enough time to factor in these delays. The last thing you want is to miss out on portraits of you and your future spouse just because your driver gets lost or stuck in traffic. This is especially relevant if where you’re going for First Look or Portraits is longer than 15 minutes away from where you’re getting ready. Once you’ve arrived at your next location, it’s time for the First Look.

First Look

Sometimes couples go back and forth on whether to do a first look or not. What we always advise is that, unless you have very strong feelings about not doing a First Look, you should definitely do one. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. It allows time for the anxiety of your wedding day to gradually dissipate. Seeing your partner for the first time a few hours before the ceremony and being able to digest the day in smaller pieces seems to have a calming effect on most couples.
  2. A first look maximizes the time you have to spend on pictures. By including one in your day, your photographer has more opportunities for portraits of the two of you and more opportunities to get a wide variety of photos with your bridal party and your family members, leaving fewer pictures for after the reception and dramatically increasing your chances of attending your cocktail hour.
  3. Brides in particular often have very idealized views of the kinds of reactions that will be elicited from their future husbands if they wait to see each other for the first time when walking down the aisle (and usually it involves lots of tears). More often than not, as an outside observer, we find that the reactions from grooms are typically less dramatic than what brides imagine. In this case, the increased anxiety and decreased time for pictures doesn’t always seem to be worth the trade off required.

While every couple is different, we whole-heartedly endorse a first look in nearly every case. Once ready, your photographer and videographer will help get everyone into position and let you know what to do next. Think about who you would like to be around for the big reveal. Some couples prefer privacy while others want all family and bridal party there to watch. Once you’ve committed to your audience, enjoy the moment of seeing your spouse for the first time. Soak it in — the rest of the day is going to be hectic and before you know it, it’s going to be all over.

Portraits

Once you’ve committed to whether or not you’d like to do a First Look, you’ll have to commit to when you’d like to do family portraits. We always recommend you do as many portraits as possible before the Ceremony. As photographers during this process, we will be evaluating the best options given the current lighting conditions and deciding if we need to use additional lighting as well as what the optimal background for your portraits might be. We are always looking for ways to maximize our limited time for portraits to provide you with the greatest value we can. The challenge is that a lot of factors outside of our control can impact this.

The portrait session can be a relatively quick and painless process or it can be long and drawn out. Sometimes it happens before the ceremony, sometimes after, but there are always groups of photos that you or important family members will want captured. We always request in the nicest (but strongest) possible terms a list of all groupings you would like during this portion of your day. And here’s why: since we don’t know your entire family history or any bad blood between family members, if we ask you in the moment who you’d like photographs of, you’re bound to forget at least one group causing disappointment once you receive your finished photos. We’d like to avoid that. Another problem with not providing this list ahead of time is that it takes as much as two to three times longer to gather all of the groups you’d like photographed if we can’t call out specific names from a piece of paper in front of us. Providing this list ahead of time makes this process as smooth as possible and allows us to spend the maximal amount of time on portraits of just the two of you. It also lets us recoup any lost time from earlier in the day. While it may take a little more time on the planning side, the payoff is significant from the time management side on the day of your wedding. Next, it’s off to preparing for your Ceremony.

Check out our next post to read more recommendations on how to plan your Ceremony, Cocktail Hour, and Reception schedule. And, as we mentioned before, if you haven’t yet selected a photographer, we’d love to be considered for your big day. Feel free to visit our portfolio at divzimedia.com to see if we would be a good fit to photography your wedding.

Free New York Wedding Planning Advice: How to Choose Your New York City Wedding Photographer

Choosing a wedding photographer in NYC feels a lot like buying a house: it’s a decision that may impact your feelings about life for the foreseeable future. Both decisions require lots of research and comparison-shopping as well as a significant investment with the hope that your investment will pay off in the future. But just like home buying, there are never any guarantees. We’ve put together this free guide to help you along in your decision making process as you start to make the next big steps planning your wedding. Keep reading below for some helpful tips.

EXPERIENCE

The first thing to consider when selecting your wedding photographer is experience. Evaluating this is the most labor intensive part of the decision making process. During this phase, you’ll have to ask yourself if you want a larger company with a more hands off approach or an individual business owner with a hands on approach to every detail of your day. You’ll want to know if the photographer you’re considering photographed hundreds of weddings or only a handful. Does the photographer have a range of images available to view in his or her portfolio? Does he or she have experience with the kind of wedding your planning? These are all important factors to consider as you begin your search. Start to develop a list of the photographers whose work you like and begin to keep a running list of the answers to these questions. Some brides find creating a spreadsheet the easiest way to keep track of the mountain of information you’re about to uncover.

Realize that every photographer has a personal vision or style in the way he or she photographs weddings, and, like fingerprints, no two are identical. Make sure the style of the photographer is a good match for your day. Do you want dark and moody photographs? Don’t choose someone whose portfolio is full of light and airy images. While many photographers can switch styles depending on the demands of the job, we all tend to have a style of photographing weddings that is most comfortable and familiar.

It’s also important to understand the editing process. Be sure to ask about the estimated timeline for the final images to be delivered to you. Are there any preview images or sneak peaks that you can request to hold you over until the final images are done? Is the photographer editing each image one by one or simply applying a filter on all of them and then sending them to you? Is the photographer even the one doing the editing? If not, how much experience does the editing team have? Are they in house or overseas? All of these factors can significantly impact the quality you receive with respect to your images. Since this is such a significant investment, make sure you do your research. Never make any assumptions!

Also, don’t forget to ask questions about the final deliverables. Does the package include an engagement shoot? A second shooter*? Are you interested in booking a video team? If so, ask if the photographer includes that as a part of his or her packages as well as what kind of videos are included (e.g. a 2-3 minute highlight video, a full video of the ceremony and/or reception formalities, any other details you may want, etc.). Are you only looking for digital copies of the photos? If so, you may need to request printing usage rights from the photographer. Are you interested in purchasing prints or an album directly from the photographer? Ask about which vendor the photographer prefers and research the trade-offs of size versus price versus quality.

There’s lots to consider when evaluating experience, but make sure you do your due diligence so you can have the inner peace of knowing the photographer you choose is equipped to handle the job of getting you great images from your wedding day.

Pro Tip: Understanding the experience level of the photographer you book is essential if you want a seamless process. Remember that experience extends far beyond the ability to just take good photos. If you want to see a more comprehensive view of what to expect from the final product, ask the photographer to send you a sample of a full wedding instead of just portfolio images so you can see the range of images that could be expected throughout a day similar to yours.

PERSONALITY

The next most important aspect to consider is the photographer’s personality. A lot of couples don’t realize it, but you’re going to be spending anywhere from 8 to 10 hours with this person on the day of your wedding with multiple emails and phone calls before and after your big day as well. Make sure that this person isn’t going to drive you crazy. You don’t have to be best friends, but you probably want to be friendly enough to co-exist without any negative feelings. Always trust your gut. The more comfortable you are with your photographer, the better pictures he or she will be able to capture.

Pro Tip: If you have a positive interaction with your photographer on your initial phone call, make sure to set up an in person meeting to see if the two of you click. Spend as much time as you need with your photographer before the wedding to make sure it’s a good fit. 10 hours is a long time to spend with a photographer you first meet on your wedding day only to find out you don’t much like being in the same room as him or her. Many experienced photographers include engagement shoots as a part of their packages not only to have images for the save the dates that you send to your guests, but, more importantly, so that the two of you can get a better idea of how you’re going to work together and what to expect from the photography process on the day of the wedding. Take advantage of this opportunity if you want to minimize photography stress levels on your wedding day.

PRICE

While it may sound counter intuitive, the final piece to consider is price. Many couples prioritize this as the most important aspect of their day, often times to their disappointment. The most expensive option is not always the best photographer for your wedding, just as the least expensive may not be the best value. Photography is a very personal choice that depends on such factors as style, personality and availability. Choose the best option for your wedding given all of the circumstances and begin to price things from there. While photographers are certainly in business to make money, there are many who understand the importance of fit and who want to work with couples who match their style of shooting and personality as this kind of arrangement significantly increases the likelihood of everyone involved having a positive experience.

What many couples may not know is that shopping for a photographer is often like shopping for a car. While there are advertised prices, there is sometimes a little bit of wiggle room depending on the specifics. Just like with cars, if there’s a very popular model that everyone wants, there aren’t going to be any discounts available. However, if you’re interested in a model that’s been sitting on the lot for months, there’s an incentive to make a deal. With photographers, make sure to get a quote but also do some research ahead of time to see if your date is during busy season or slow season and understand that pricing will reflect those factors.

Pro Tip: If you like a photographer who’s more expensive, see if your preferred photographer will match someone else’s quote. See if he or she will throw any extras in. During busy times the photographer won’t likely budge, but during slow season you may get lucky and get a little bit better of a deal. It never hurts to try as long as the offer you’re suggesting isn’t so low that it’s insulting to the photographer.

Like all choices, who you decide to book as your wedding photographer will be a compromise. It is incredibly unlikely that you are going to check off every wish list item for your photographer. Take some time to think about which items you can give on and which are non negotiable for you. Find someone whose style matches yours, who has photographed similar weddings as yours, who is easy to work with and whose pricing you can live with. And understand that even if you find the perfect photographer for your wedding, he or she may already be booked for that date. Make sure you have a backup choice should that happen.

Choosing your wedding photographer is one of the biggest choices you’re going to make about your wedding. We hope this guide has been helpful in providing you with important information to consider as you’re researching your photography options. As a photographer who shoots weddings, we would also love to be considered for your big day. Feel free to check out our portfolio to see if we could be a good match for what you’re looking for at divzimedia.com.

Now that you have a better idea on how to select your photographer, check out our next posts which include some important tips on how to plan your wedding day schedule.

*as a general rule, any wedding over 75 guests deserves to have at least two photographers in order to ensure multiple angles and perspectives of what’s taking place at any given moment are captured