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

In our previous post,we discussed the importance of strategically planning the first half of your day in order to maximize your enjoyment (and photo time) and minimize your stress levels. Next comes the most important part of the day.

CEREMONY

Most couples report feeling the highest level of anxiety during this part of the day. While there are many factors to consider when planning your wedding, make sure to take into consideration your ceremony venue and the day of the week of your wedding. Do you have a Friday evening wedding in a traffic heavy area? Maybe you should advertise the start time a half hour earlier than what it really is to make sure that your guests actually make it there on time. What are the acoustics of the room like? Has your DJ worked this venue before or is there an on site staff member who will be handling the audio? What kind of music do you want? Will you be using a playlist or have someone singing? What is the lighting of the room like? Will your officiant allow your photographers to use supplemental lighting? Will your ceremony be outdoors? If so, how will weather impact the ceremony and potentially your guests? These are all factors to consider leading up to your wedding that can have a major impact on your ceremony. Ceremonies are very personal so we always advise couples to consider all of the above issues and then move forward with what you think is the best fit. Whatever you decide, make sure your photographer is informed of the key components of your ceremony. A good checklist to share with your photographer includes the following:

  1. Roughly how long is your ceremony?
  2. Are there any photo or video restrictions with respect to movement or the use of supplemental lighting?
  3. Are there any personalized components the photographer should be aware of (e.g. multi-faith elements, cultural traditions, custom vows, etc.)?

With that information, your photographer will be able to develop a rough game plan of how to capture your ceremony and provide you with the best photos possible given the circumstances.

Like all parts of your wedding day, there’s going to be trade offs. If you’re having a full mass in a dark basilica where the priest doesn’t allow supplemental lighting, you’re going to have to accept some heavy shadows on your faces in most all of the photos. Same if you’re having an outdoor ceremony in direct sun. If you’re in a bright and airy space, you’re not going to be able to get photos that feel dark and moody without additional lighting. Don’t feel the need to change your entire ceremony just for the best possible photos, but you should be aware of and realistic about the impact that your ceremony choices will have on the final photos. No matter how talented a photographer you’ve hired, he or she can’t cheat the physics of light.

While all of the above issues have a major impact on your wedding, once you get to your venue remember to take a deep breath and forget about all the stuff that doesn’t matter; make your way down the aisle and cherish that moment, because it’s going to go very fast. After the vows, ring exchange, and kiss, it’s all over. Soak up every second you can. After the ceremony, your photographer may need you and your family for some formal photos, but you’re one step closer to the party. Before that, you’ll have to make a quick stop at cocktail hour.

Cocktail Hour

Cocktail hour is a great all purpose time. It lets you as the couple take a breather for a moment alone before the reception. It lets your venue reset the ceremony room for the reception if you’re using a shared space. It lets your guests and family relax before the emotional intensity of all that dancing at the reception. Be aware that while your photographer will do everything possible to let everyone attend cocktail hour immediately after the ceremony, this may not always be possible. For example, if you opt not to do a first look, the photographer will have to take this time to take family portraits and portraits of just the two of you. Even if you do decide on a first look, the photographer may have to use this time for any missed portraits that were unable to be captured due to guests running late or other similar issues. Your photographer may also need to refuel during this time with a quick snack.

After the reception room has been prepared, your photographer will also spend some time photographing the room and all the details before your guests begin to enter. Given how important this hour is for everyone at your wedding, make sure to discuss how you would like to utilize this time with your photographer prior to the day of the wedding to ensure you’re both on the same page.

Reception

This is the most relaxed part of the day but there are still some important parts to plan and some key pieces of information that photographers need to know about in order to get the best photos possible. Most receptions include some variation of the following key events:

  1. Bridal Party Entrances
  2. First Dance
  3. Parent Dances
  4. Speeches
  5. Dance Sets
  6. Dinner Service
  7. Cake Cutting
  8. Bouquet/Garter Toss

Some receptions include all of these, some only a handful, but whatever you decide to do make sure your photographer is informed. Photographers will often check with Emcees to ensure that they are both on the same page with respect to the order of events and to kindly ask that nothing happens without his or her knowledge. After all of these formalities are out of the way, it’s dancing and drinking and maybe stealing you two away for a few nighttime portraits.

The reception should be fun. Enjoy it. Celebrate however you want. But be advised that the last hour of a reception is typically the most “relaxed” where guests tend to let loose in ways they may not during the first few hour. Unless you’re having a dry wedding, we always recommend you end photo and video coverage about an hour before the end of the reception in order to preserve the dignity of your guests. The only exception to this is if you’re having some kind of major event at the end like a sparkler send off or an after party that needs to be captured in which case the photographers should exercise the utmost discretion during that last hour.

Before you know it, your wedding will be over. The photo team will leave, and you’ll be left waiting for the pictures and maybe wondering what’s next. Before your photographer even arrives at the wedding, make sure you’ve discussed what the timeline looks like for delivery of your images and in what format. You should never have to question when the images are coming; the communication should be seamless from the beginning, and it’s the photographer’s job to make sure you know what to expect and when.

In terms of other miscellaneous items throughout the day that you should be aware of for the photo/video team we would recommend the following:

  • Please inform your team about parking limitation at any of the venues. If they need to budget time to find parking, it’s better to build that into the schedule so there aren’t any delays in your day. Not every wedding will require a vehicle, but, depending on the amount of equipment needed, we may have to drive.
  • Also, since it is your wedding, it’s likely you’re going to be very busy and unavailable to answer any questions your photo team might have. Please provide the contact numbers of two people (one for the bride, one for the groom) whom we can call in case we have any questions or need to convey any information.
  • Is there a specific dress code? Make sure your photographer is aware of it. Most pros know to dress for the occasion, but given the amount of physical work that goes into the day, we balance our clothing choices with something that isn’t too constricting given how mobile we have to be.
  • Also, please make sure your photographers are fed. Many photographers have clauses in their contracts ensuring they are fed a hot meal along with your guests. This isn’t because we’re greedy, but rather because we need to refuel to provide you with the highest level of service for the rest of the evening. We don’t need the most expensive dish that’s offered, but we will need a moment to grab some food and catch our breath if we’re going to be able to focus on making the best images possible for the reception. Make sure to check with your photographer for any allergies or dietary requirements.
  • Remember that, like all things in life, not everything will go according to plan on your wedding. You will likely run late during at least one portion of your day and your photographer will try to make up the lost time somewhere (that’s why time buffers are so important when scheduling). It’s ok. In fact, it’s normal, and it happens on nearly every wedding. Try to roll with the punches as best you can.

If you have any questions about any part of the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to your photographer. Let him or her be a resource and offer expertise that may be able to address the concerns specific to your day.

While there are undoubtedly other issues that may come up, we hope you’ve found this guide helpful in creating a rough template for your wedding planning! We appreciate you stopping by and would love to be considered to photograph your wedding. Please visit divzimedia.com to view our portfolio and see whether we would be a good fit for your wedding day. Hope to talk to you soon.

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