Tips for creating a relaxed wedding day experience
Educating our couples on the best practices for timing, settings and light is crucial in order for us to create our best work on a wedding day. Usually a photographer is hired for their specific style and vision, therefore, we feel it important to communicate what we need and the ideal environments to work in, in order to achieve this plus make the day run smoothly.
These tips will ensure you have a fun and relaxed wedding day experience and get the best wedding photos + film.
The biggest piece of advice I can provide couples getting married with to create a relaxed wedding day is … planning planning planning!
A wedding checklist that sets out the timeline for the various events that occur during the wedding day is a good place to start. To simplify this task, I’ve created a wedding planning timeline. I will cover getting ready, ceremony, family portraits, bridal party location photoshoot, couple portraits and the reception.
This timeline is a suggestion based on a typical wedding day for initial planning purposes. Please make consideration for travel between venues or if you are adding non-traditional elements, for example:
- the bride & groom want to mingle with guests during cocktail hour
- a morning ceremony
- rearranging formal events at the reception, ie cake cutting or first dance, to happen earlier in the evening
- incorporating religious or cultural elements
- considerable travel distances between venues
- have booked a package with less hours
Some of these times may seem long, but keep in mind that time gets away from you fast, the day will fly by, even with planning it is common for most weddings to run behind schedule slightly, but we will make the photo time fun so it won’t appear to seem like a long time.
I would be more than happy to create a custom wedding day photography timeline with my couples well in advance of the wedding date, to accommodate your wedding day plans.
Tip: The two times that are usually set without much room for flexibility are your ceremony and meal. Google sunset for your wedding date & location and use this as a guide when locking these times in. eg. We want to be doing couple portraits just as the sunsets so 2.5/3hrs earlier will be ceremony. Meal time 30mins after sunset allows you to go to bathroom, freshen up before you enter the reception and sit down.
Getting ready is the time when the bridal party can get familiar with having a photographer around snapping away. During this time, we like to observe the connections between the people and gauge the emotions, and also test the lighting conditions and angles in the room.
Let’s talk room environment. Dark, messy cluttered rooms can be challenging. Getting ready can be a nice time to capture genuine emotions, but the atmosphere of the messy room can distract from the genuine moments happening and the beauty of the afternoon. Here are some things to consider.
Clutter – there is usually a lot going on, but try to keep clutter hidden and to a minimum. Keep bags, suitcases, laundry and so on in a different room or wardrobe. We usually do a sweep of the room when we arrive to declutter and clean up the area, but it’s helpful if the mess is kept to a minimum.
Light – natural window light is our favorite kind of light and the most flattering. If possible, get ready in a room with natural window light, that means we won’t need to use flash or artificial light. Rooms often have fluorescent or tungsten lights which give off weird colour casts, usually green or orange tones, which is not ideal for natural skin tones in your photos, particularly with spray tans. We prefer to turn all lights off and rely only on window light where possible!
Where – typical motel rooms often don’t provide the best light or setting for getting ready photos. If you can, I recommend looking into other options, like well known chain hotels as they tend to have nicely styled suites or my favourites are charming Air BnB’s as they have a range of options that make ideal backdrops for getting ready photos!
Hair/Makeup – your hair stylist and makeup artist will also need window light to ensure well-blended foundation and natural skin tones.
This is only valid if our deluxe all day package is booked or if groom is getting ready close by, same hotel etc.
Allow 45 minutes
Groom & Groomsmen should be showered and dressed in just pants + shirt ready for photographer’s arrival.
Parents and any other family members should be fully dressed ready for portraits
Have all the Grooms details laid out – Jacket/tie/shoes/socks/cuff links/rings etc
Typical photos taken during this time :
Groom Details & Wedding Bands – allow the first 10-15 minutes
Candid’s of the Groom & Groomsmen getting ready
Father/Mother putting on groom’s flower
Portraits – Groom, Groom with all the Groomsmen, Groom with individual Groomsmen
Groom with Mum, Groom with Dad, Groom with Mum & Dad,
Groom with any additional family members present.
Tip – If you don’t normally wear a tie, practice before the day
Bride Preparation / Portraits of Bride & Bridesmaids
allow 1.5 – 2 hours
Bride & Bridesmaids are usually still getting hair & makeup when we arrive
The best spaces for getting ready photos have lots of natural light, so when we arrive we’ll do a quick walk around to check for potential locations.
Where possible, we prefer to do the portraits in a shaded area as it’s the most flattering.
Typical photos taken during this time :
Bride Details – allow first 20 minutes
Wedding gown on hanger, flowers, shoes, engagement ring, hair pieces, jewelry & perfume
please have these items laid out together on a table/bed prior to the photographer’s arrival.
Candid’s – allow 45 minutes
Hair & makeup being finished, bridal party in robes having a drink, a few posed shots together
Final touch up for hair & makeup.
Parents and any other family members should be fully dressed ready for portraits
Bridesmaids get dressed ready to help Bride into her wedding gown
Bride Preparation – bride gets in her gown, puts on jewelry, shoes, perfume, veil, etc
with assistance from the Bridesmaids and Mother-of-the-Bride
Bride reveal to Father-of-the-Bride. Putting on Father’s flower
Portraits – allow 30 minutes
Bride with all the Bridesmaids, Bride with individual Bridesmaids, Bride with Flower Girls
Bride with Mum, Bride with Dad, Bride with Mum & Dad,
Bride with any additional family members present. Bride on her own.
Unplugged weddings are no longer a new thing. We’ve all seen articles about unplugged ceremonies, and we’ve all seen the photos where guests are leaning into the aisle blocking the groom from seeing the bride as she walks down the aisle (I’ve added one below). To be honest, It’s a sign of the times we live and honestly I get their need to take a photo of this special occasion! Hey, if someone is getting in the way, I’m going to take a photo of them! … but we certainly can offer some knowledge from our years of experience in the wedding industry as well as some suggestions on whether an unplugged wedding is for you.
If you don’t know what an unplugged ceremony is, its when you ask your guests to refrain from taking photos during the ceremony.
Asking your guests not to use cameras or any device that can take photos during the ceremony, allows your guests to be present as you make your vows, rather than trying to take a photo or firing off flashes as the bride and groom exchange moving and sentimental words, and in most instances their photos are pretty ordinary.
If you choose not to go unplugged, I would at least recommend that guests refrain from leaving their seat and standing in the aisles, and for them to just take photos from their seat. If anyone is in the aisles during any part of the ceremony, at some stage they will most likely be in our way as we move about and restrict our view. It’s even more important guests are not lingering in aisles if we’re shooting video as the the extra people in the aisles are potentially blocking the view of the cameras.
If you are planning on having an unplugged ceremony, I encourage you to let your guests know ahead of the day with a simple message in the wedding invitations, as well as a sign placed in the ceremony area, and asking the officiant to make an announcement before the ceremony begins.
allow approx 30 minutes
Most outdoor garden ceremonies are around 30 minutes,
but we suggest you check with your officiant for a more accurate duration once you decide on your vows.
For outdoor ceremonies, light and sun are super important factors and how they affect photos.
Dappled light (mixed between bright sun spots & shade) and harsh sunlight are not ideal.
If you’re having your ceremony outdoors between 10am and 3pm,
try to always position the sun behind the couple to avoid squinting.
Naturally overcast weather is perfect for photos, but we can’t control nature so can’t rely on that approach.
A better option would be to plan your ceremony for later in the day, so the light is softer and not coming from overhead.
For indoor and church ceremonies, while they have the advantage of a wet weather backup,
lighting in historical cathedrals can be minimal due to the small windows.
Also many of the cathedrals don’t allow the use of flash photography
and while we use professional camera equipment that performs well in low-light situations such as this,
this can affect image quality depending on how much natural light and at what direction it is coming from.
More modern churches usually allow in more light.
For Northern NSW or SE Queensland weddings, the best ceremony start time for Spring would be around 3pm,
however in Autumn and Winter try for an earlier time of 2pm. In Summer you can push it to 4pm or later to avoid the heat & harsh light.
Just be sure to leave enough time for congratulations, family photos, bridal party photos, and bridal portraits around sunset.
If you are unsure, feel free to ask me about your ceremony location and I’d be happy to give my advice and tips.
Tip: If your wedding is in NSW during daylight savings time you may be able to push your ceremony start time back a little to allow for the extra hour of sun.
allow 15 minutes
Congratulations is a great time for capturing candids of your wedding guests.
allow 15-30 minutes
Family portraits, while not the most creative photos, are very important.
We photograph family portraits at every wedding.
Most of the time it’s a short list with just the immediate family involved.
Immediate family includes the couple’s parents, siblings, sibling’s family, grandparents and any step-parents/siblings.
Others add extended family groups – aunts, uncles and cousins.
The amount of time needed will obviously differ depending on the number of groups, but I move through them fairly quickly.
Prior to your wedding day I ask you to create a list of those groups.
It is recommend having a designated helper on each side to assist with gathering people for the family photos.
Bridal party photos are not listed here as they are done at the bridal party location shoot.
However, if there are flower girls and page boys in the bridal party, I would typically do them following the family portraits
as the flower girls and page boys don’t typically go on the bridal party photo shoot.
Ideal location is a shaded area just near the ceremony location or we sometimes use the arbor if suitable.
Bridal Party Location Shoot
Bride & Groom Portraits
allow 1 – 1.5 hours
We recommend choosing a location offering different “scenes” close to each other for variety.
If you have chosen a venue with ceremony and reception in one location, we can leave site, however we usually find
the couple wish to remain on the property, then we simply go for a wander utilising various parts of the property.
We’ve done weddings where we have 2 hours allocated for portraits, and weddings with only 20 minutes because of delays.
As far as ideal time however, 60mins is fine and ultimately we will work with what we’re given.
The more allocated time usually means the shoot can be at a slower pace, allow the couple to relax into the session
which generally achieves more relaxed expressions as well as time for creative photos.
Whereas less allotted time usually means we are there to take photos, and as many as we can in a short amount of time.
We prefer to split the time – the first 10-15mins is dedicated to the full bridal party having a drink and snacks, followed by traditional group shots. Then we like to leave the bridesmaids & groomsmen to focus on the couples portraits.
When attention is off the couple, some of the best, most genuine and joyful moments occur.
The ideal time to start the bridal portraits is 30-45 minutes before sunset as that is the best light, as it’s soft and golden.
The most important thing to ensure we get great photos is trust.
You naturally feel in love with our photography because you booked us to capture this special day,
so now is the time to trust us to create beautiful photos.
The best wedding photos come from collaboration and trust between the couple and photographer!
When we arrive at the location we recommend you bring something to eat & drink and have a little picnic. It lets everyone relax which makes for nicer photos.
coverage depends on the chosen photography package
Reception Lighting – it’s all about mood for us. We embrace the romantic light and we do love a venue with Festoon lights! It’s important to have sufficient lighting for ambience for this type of low light photography and if we don’t think there is adequate light, which makes focusing a bit tricky, we most definitely break out the flash.
Sparkler Exit – if you are planning on a sparkler exit, you will need photography coverage to the end of the reception which would typically be a photography package offering 10 hours.
Typical photos taken during this time depends on the coverage in your photography package :
The 5 & 8 hour packages generally allow for:
Reception Room Details prior to the guests entering the main reception room
Bridal Party and Bride & Groom introductions
Father-Daughter & Mother-Son Dances
Candid photos documenting guests mingling & laughing
Candid-style portraits of couples and groups
Sparkler display can be added just before photographer leaves
If you wish to have any night-time portraits during the reception, ie. creative couples portraits
using interesting lighting, city nightscapes, sparkler photos, please notify us prior to the wedding day.
You will need to plan to leave the reception for 20-30 minutes for night-time portraits.
The ideal time is after the first dance.
Night photography is quite technical and slower paced, but can be dramatic and well worth the effort.
Photographers Meal – If a photographer is at your reception its typical for the couple to provide them with a meal. We don’t expect to sit as a guest for the entrée + main meal, nor do we need anything too fancy – just something on a plate is fine. The first chance we get to sit down for a break is after 6 hours of shooting, running between venues, organising guests for family photos, and both physical and mental exertion directing bridal parties and couples, it really is appreciated if you can supply the photographer with a main meal. A happy and fed photographer will certainly perform better for the last few hours of the reception when they’ve had a break and filled their bellies. While this can be a controversial topic with venues/caterers, it is ideal for the photographer to be served their meal at the same time as the bridal table, so that they have time to eat while guests are eating, and be finished in time for speeches, cake cutting or dances that might happen during or at the end of dinner. The easiest way for this to happen is for you to mention this to your venue beforehand. If you are having a buffet, it’s easy for the photographer to grab their own food at the appropriate time. Some venues insist on serving vendors at the end of serving the guests meals, which means the photographer doesn’t have a chance to eat before speeches begin.
Remember, this is just a guide to work off, If you are incorporating any traditional or nontraditional elements, for example rearranging events or adding religious or cultural elements, we are more than happy to work with each couple to adjust the timeline to make it possible.