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.

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.