I've been photographing weddings since 2012 and have picked up plenty of tips and tricks along the way.
I WOULD LikE TO SHARE THEM WITH YOU:
This is the day.
I won't attempt to play down the significance of a wedding day in an effort to appear casual—this is a big deal. You've spent valuable time and emotional energy arriving to this level of commitment with your favorite person and the day is here to become a family and celebrate it for all to see.
That being said, traditional rules are, in my humble opinion, meant to be a little bit bent and sometimes completely broken. Maybe you'll be surrounded by just a few loved ones in your backyard or on the patio of your favorite bar on a Tuesday afternoon in August, or you'll have 200 of your nearest and dearest partying in a warehouse with glow in the dark cotton candy and tacos until 2am. Perhaps you're planning a 3 day party in the woods or are flying 12 hours to an faraway destination.
Whatever you have in mind, I'm honored to be documenting every big and little moment for you.
Feeling nervous before photos?
This is normal! I offer light & simple direction and will adjust based off of how much I feel you may need while we're working together. But I also look at portrait sessions as an equal collaboration; I will work with what you offer me, but I never want to make you uncomfortable and won't try to force you to do anything that feels unnatural. Sometimes I'll have something specific in mind and hope you're able to trust me and my vision, but if you're ever not feeling it just say so and I'll readjust.
Most of my direction will bring the focus back to you two, so don’t be afraid to physically connect with your partner. When in doubt or wondering, “what do I do with my hands?!” try making contact with your person by holding their hand, touching their cheek, looking to them, or caressing their arm. Since photography is a visual medium any way you can literally and visually 〰️ connect with one other will support the story being told.
9:30am – Wedding Party meets for Breakfast
SAMPLE SCHEDULE & Tips
Location Name, Address, City, Zip
This is a sample activity you may or may not have planned with your friends and/or family before the official activities of the day begin. This could also be a chance for you and your partner to share a few quiet moments before the craziness of the day sets in. (I love this idea!) Feel free to omit this section, if necessary.
A schedule helps with the flow of a Wedding Day, eliminates any unexpected surprises, and keeps me from missing any key moments. Unless you're eloping or having an ultra casual and intimate wedding with a single location, a schedule is essential. Feel free to customize, omit, and rearrange this schedule as you see fit.
You can find a copy to save to your account on my Google Drive here.
Make sure to send me the final schedule no fewer than two weeks before the wedding date to give us time to make adjustments if necessary. It’s also a good idea to share the finalized schedule with the wedding party, family members, and other vendors.
Refer to these articles in BRIDES and A Practical Wedding–both of which I utilized when assembling this–as you’re customizing the schedule.
10:30am – Wedding Party & HMUA Arrive
Location Name, Address, City, Zip
I honestly have no idea exactly how long it will take you to get ready from start to finish. I only have this slotted in here to give you a jumping off point - make sure to check in with your hair/makeup artists (HMUA) to customize this time.
1:30pm – Photographer arrives*
Location Name, Address, City, Zip
I like to arrive a minimum of 30 minutes (no more than 90 minutes) before you’re ready to get dressed. This gives me time to photograph key details, such as your wardrobe, rings, perfume or cologne bottle, accessories, and invitations. Please try to have these items on hand before I arrive. If you're getting ready separately and would like to have both you and your partner’s getting ready time photographed, this time will be earlier and something we need to plan for before the wedding day, and may require me bringing along a second photographer. I’ll also be photographing everyone who is getting ready with you at this time - these images are meant to be candid, but it’s a good idea to give your friends and family a heads up that they’ll be appearing in casual photos.
*For 8 or 10 hour wedding packages. Please note, a second photographer's time will occur concurrently with mine and we cannot be staggered throughout the day, so they would start at this time, too.
2:15pm – Wedding Party is dressed; your H/M is complete & you're ready to get dressed
The bridal party + any key family members should be dressed and ready by the time your hair and/or makeup is complete. This way, everyone can participate while you’re getting dressed (buttoning, zipping, etc). Unless you have meal or snacks planned prior to the ceremony, I recommend you take a moment to eat something light around this time, before getting dressed. You'll use up a lot of energy in the next few hours and an empty stomach will only make you feel frazzled.
Make sure anyone who isn't getting ready helps clean up the area so no one is tripping and there are no neon duffle bags, garbage, or empty water bottles scattered in the background.
2:30pm – You get dressed
This is typically a candid activity; your friends or family are helping you get dressed, assisting with shoes and jewelry, hugging, and maybe tearing up a little bit. Prior to the day, please encourage your friends and/or family not to live through their phones during this process. There are few things more sad to me than going through photos and being unable to see a mother's face behind her iPhone when she's seeing her child in their wedding clothes for the first time.
2.45pm – Solo Portraits
Just you, at or near the place you just got ready, or at a designated location near/on the way to a first look location, if time permits. It’s great if you have the flowers at this point, but not required.
3:00 – Photographer arrives*
Location Name, Address, City, Zip
*For 6 hour packages.
3:00–3:20pm – First Look & Portraits 01
Location Name, Address, City, Zip
The first look is a special moment where you see your partner for the first time, away from the dozens of eyes that will be watching during the ceremony. This time also helps ease the nerves you may be feeling and to take some of the first portraits of you two during the day. If you want to keep this moment intimate, I recommend telling your family and wedding party to give you privacy. If they insist on joining and you’d rather they don’t, you can always tell them that I requested it.
3:30–4:00pm – Wedding Party Photos
Location Name, Address, City, Zip
These are the group photos with all members of the wedding party, including individual portraits of you with each member of the wedding party, if you want them.
4:10-4:45pm – Wedding Party & Family Photos
Location Name, Address, City, Zip – Recommended: at or near Ceremony location
Family photos can be stressful for everyone involved, but I promise they won’t be if you follow my lead.
In my experience it’s best to keep all family photos to one time slot; I explain why in the Family Photo Tips section below.
If you opt not to have a first look, we can always do all the family photos at once after the ceremony but will want to ensure we have plenty of space away from the other guests and have scheduled for the appropriate lighting during this time.
5:00pm – Catch your breath/hide time
This is when you take a few minutes to relax, drink some water, go to the bathroom, take a shot, hide from guests, and get excited.
5:30pm – Ceremony Start listed on invite
Many weddings don’t actually start right at the listed time on the invitation. This gives your habitually late cousin a chance to find their seat before the aisle is littered with the wedding party, or to make up for the fact that the President is in town and their motorcade is messing up traffic (true story). There’s typically music playing at this time, and I keep seeing more pre-ceremony cocktail hours or welcome beverages.
5:40pm – Actual Ceremony Start
5:40–6:15pm – Ceremony
This time is different for every wedding and entirely depends on the type of ceremony you're having. Typically secular ceremonies last around 15-20 minutes, while religious ceremonies can last up to an hour or more. One secular wedding I photographed included the couple’s friend reading the monologue from “When Harry Met Sally” as well as several other performances, and that definitely lasted more than 20 minutes, so it’s totally up to you two here.
6:15-7:15pm – Cocktail Hour & Portraits 02
Location Name, Address, City, Zip – if different from Ceremony
Invite guests to cocktail hour while we head out for those “We’re MARRIED!” photos I mentioned earlier.
7:15pm – Reception: Guests invited to dinner
Location Name, Address, City, Zip – if different from Cocktail, Ceremony
7:30pm – Grand Entrance (optional)
7:35–7:45pm – Welcome Toasts from hosts
The first toasts in the wedding reception timeline are considered welcome toasts or a prayer before dinner and they are typically offered by the parents, officiant, friend, or a family member of the couple.
7:45–8:30pm – Dinner
8:15–8:35pm – Portraits 03 @ Sunset (varies)
These are those dreamy, romantic, golden-hued photos you’ve probably seen (scroll ¾ of the way down this blog post to see what I mean). We can definitely chat more about these photos and where exactly you want them to take place, but I recommend at or near the reception location. I always check the time of sunset when we’re planning the schedule, but you can do so, too, by Googling: “sunset [date, location]”
8:40–8:55pm – Toasts
As dinner is wrapping up (a planner or coordinator could offer you the best advice on this, but it’s typically right after the last table has been served) any members of the wedding party or family can offer their toasts during this slot of the wedding schedule. Always give a time limit to these people; less than five minutes is a good rule of thumb.
9:00pm – Photography Ends (6 hours)
8:55–9:05pm – First Dance, Parent Dances, Open Dance Floor
These dances typically take place immediately following toasts. If you or your partner don’t wish to participate, I’ve seen many weddings start the open dance with a wedding party dance and a high energy song.
9:30pm – Photography Ends (8 hours)
9:30pm – Cake Cutting, Bouquet/Garter, etc. & Night Portraits (all optional)
Not everyone wants to do a Cake Cutting, Bouquet/Garter Toss, or Money Dance/other traditional dances, and this is, obviously, totally up to you! And honestly, I salute you for doing whatever makes the most sense to you two.
As for the Night Portraits, they would take less than 5 minutes somewhere around the venue after the sun has set - don’t worry, I’ll figure out this part on the day and pull you aside at the most opportune moment. They’re usually a great chance to catch your breath after dancing the night away with your new spouse.
11:30pm – Exit; Photography Ends (10 hours)
You can find this schedule on my Google Drive from where you can save it to your own account or download for editing to your heart's content.
Don't forget to send me the semi-finalized schedule two weeks before the wedding so we can make any necessary adjustments. As always, please reach out if you have any questions during the process!
You don't have to end the night when I leave, but if you want photos of a sparkler line this would be the time to do that. Arrange for a specific song with your DJ or band ahead of time and to be cued that the that song is coming up. If you're having an exit with sparklers, make sure to plan ahead with the venue coordinator and ask their advice for best practices. I recommend using the 20" or 30" sparklers intended for this (they last a 120 seconds or longer) rather than choosing a shorter or budget option.
Trust your gut!
This is your wedding day, and ultimately it should be a reflection of what you and your partner want it to be rather than an overly curated or designed creation from someone else’s mood board. There are no wrong opinions or ideas when it comes to what you want your day to be and represent. I won’t tell you exactly what to wear for engagement photos (unless you want me to) or shame you for any of your choices on the wedding day. I am there to document the day exactly as it occurs, weird lighting, dated wallpaper, ugly crying and all.
If you’re stumped or need guidance or an opinion on something you’ve picked out, I will absolutely offer it. But I typically just refer back to what you want most, because there are too many unique things that make you so uniquely you and I have no place to try to direct you into something else; there’s no fun in forcing someone to be something they’re not.
The Booking Process
You reach out, I respond, we meet up either via video chat/phone call/in person. Questions are asked and answered and eventually a contract is signed and the non-refundable 25% retainer is paid: You have a wedding photographer!
The timing of this depends on a lot of different factors, but we'll figure that out as we chat. If you opt out of the engagement session, we won't necessarily have a ton of communication before the 2 month mark. For my organization and sanity, all wedding q's should be directed to my business email.
Two months before the wedding my booking system will automatically send you a questionnaire which supplies me with important information that may require follow-up questions. Please return this questionnaire no later than 2 weeks before the wedding.
One month before the wedding my payment system will send you the final invoice, with reminders for overdue payments. If you're unable to make this payment for any reason, just let me know as soon as possible so we can figure something out.
You will kiss and laugh and smile and cry all the different tears and it will be a great day. I'll photograph it and dance my booty off with your loved ones. I love weddings. Within a week of the wedding I'll send some preview images your way.
Approximately 8-10 weeks after your wedding date I'll deliver your carefully curated and edited images via my online gallery system, where you can download, order prints, and share with loved ones. This gallery will be available for one year, at which point I ask that you backup the photos in at least two locations.
Just pretend like I'm not here...
My favorite weddings are those in which I feel like I’ve become an honorary member of your family or friend group at the end of the day, so it’s always important to me that our personalities mesh well. But my goal on the wedding day is also to melt into the background, only making myself known when it’s requested or I have something to offer, be it gentle posing, better lighting, or a joke to break the ice.
I move around in an unobtrusive manner and don’t need people to move out of my way. Infact, I'm probably incorporating them into my framing of an image because I feel a photo becomes more dynamic and tells a better story when it includes your loved ones engaging with you.
In my opinion you can never have too much or bad light yet there are different types of light and times of day that lend themselves to certain events or photos. But don't worry: I can create kickass photos in all types of light on the fly, and some of my favorite images were taken in light that I wouldn't necessarily have chosen to work with if given the option.
My 'BEST FOR' references below are a very loose guide, because as with all good things the rules are meant to be broken and is often when real creativity is born.
I'm sure you're already aware of this one. I love golden hour light; it’s soft, dramatic, warm, nostalgic, and so fun to play with. I call it honey light, and it’s hard to take a bad photo in this light. A wedding ceremony that takes place during this time (~60 minutes prior sunset) is memorable, but also means we would need to take most portraits before the ceremony, during somewhat less desirable light.
Some of my favorite photos during the day take place when I sneak off with just the couple for a few intimate, romantic, “WE’RE MARRIED!” portraits right after the ceremony, so it’s great if we can do this for 10-20 minutes during the golden hour, the closer to sunset the better. I always take sunset into account when helping to build a schedule, but you can see when it is, too, by googling: "sunset [location] [date]"
BEST FOR: Ceremony, portraits, cocktail hour, reception...everything!
The time after the sun has set can be a challenge, but I fully embrace it and love utilizing it’s uniqueness to create intimate portraits and candid photos of your loved ones. Street lights, string lights, neon, shop lights, headlights, DJ lights, candles, firepits, and my camera flash are all game here. These photos are often a little darker, more grainy, a little less perfect, and full of motion and nostalgia.
It's no secret that I have a soft spot for neon portraits, and I'm always game if you want to incorporate this element into your portraits. You can even get custom-made neon signs (here and here) for your wedding (imagine it above the bar, dinner table, or dance floor) and to later display in your home.
BEST FOR: Couples' portraits, cocktail, reception, dancing.
This one is relatively unpredictable; I'm not always able to plan for when it will hit unless I'm incredibly familiar with a location. This is direct light that hits in a magical way, for just a few moments and will disappear as quickly as it appeared. We'll often find this light in the woods or near a tree, which is what creates its signature shadowy effect. Dappled light is one of my most requested and referenced light types, but we can't always perfectly plan for it.
BEST FOR: Portraits, first look, engagement sessions.
Twinkle or Bistro Lights
Stringed lights are sort of like the golden hour of artificial light: always flattering, magical, and fun to play with. A reception with lots and lots of twinkle lights is one of my absolute favorite environments to photograph. String them above your ceremony seating, over the dinner tables, weave them through the trees, or create a circus tent-like effect over the dance floor. I always make the most of twinkle lights when they’re available during a ceremony or reception and love to utilize them to give photos a unique sparkle. I have yet to see too many being used, and often wish there were more. So if it's financially possible, always add more lights.
BEST FOR: Portraits, ceremony, cocktail hour, reception, dance party.
Indirect Window Light
This is always nice light. Your makeup artist will want to utilize this during the getting ready portion of your wedding day to avoid weird and unflattering shadows which may be caused by lamps, overhead lights, or bathroom lighting. We can also play with window light during portraits, and use it to illuminate family or group portraits if there are multiple or a single window is large enough.
If possible, use gauzy curtains to soften windows with direct sunlight. This will help scatter the light and make it softer and more flattering for multiple purposes throughout the day.
BEST FOR: Getting ready, portraits, first look, group portraits, ceremony, reception.
This is the kind of light you’ll find in the middle of a clear sunny day, typically in the summer months from mid-morning until mid-afternoon. Late fall, winter, and early spring full sun can be a different, wonderful, magical beast that sits lower in the sky and may err on the side of hazy and is almost always wonderful and easy to work with.
Summer full sun can be a challenging time to take some of those more staged or traditional group portraits without a shady spot (because of squinting) but we can almost always get some very dramatic portraits of you and your partner during this time.
BEST FOR: Summertime couples' portraits; wintertime all portraits.
This one is sort of an amendment to Full Sun. When we're photographing group portraits, a first look, or anything else that I have some control over during a clear, Full Sun day, I'll inevitably try to find a large enough area of open shade for at least some of these photos. I'll be on the lookout for buildings, tall & full trees, or other structures next to which I can tuck people for posed or semi-posed portraits while still illuminating them beautifully. When in doubt, I'll try to have you stand in the shade while facing wherever the light is coming from.
BEST FOR: Portraits, first look, group portraits, short ceremonies.
I have a love-hate relationship with overcast days. Sometimes they can read a little flat and uninspiring, but they're almost always soft, gentle, and flattering. If your wedding day is overcast, you should be excited! It's one of the easiest and most predictable light sources to work with, so all of your photographer's energy can be entirely dedicated to documenting your day rather than anticipating the ever-changing nature of full sun.
BEST FOR: Every element of a wedding day.
Snapping a few quick photos occasionally is one thing, but we have all witnessed that person whose phone is an extension of their arm all day long. Being hidden behind a screen during the most intimate moments means your loved ones are unwittingly cutting themselves off from totally experiencing what they're seeing; there's literally an obstacle between them and the experience. And from a visual standpoint, it communicates that they don’t really care when we know it's the exact opposite.
You might already be familiar with unplugged ceremonies, but I think it’s equally as important to have a conversation with family and friends prior to the wedding about intentionally putting their phones down throughout the the day. You can tell them that you want them to be able to live in the moment and really experience every aspect of it and that you’ll have a professional photographer along to document those important moments for them. I promise it will make your photos that much more impactful when you look back on them in 20 years.
You can find this list on my Google Drive to save to your own account or download to edit to your heart's content.
Sample Family Photo List
MAKE A LIST: Make sure to supply me with this detailed family list no later than 2 weeks before the wedding. If I don’t have a second photographer, designate your most responsible family member or friend (preferably not someone in a majority of the photos) to help me identify and organize people. Be sure they know about it and are introduced to me ahead of time.
Alex’s Family (14 phot0s ≈ 15 minutes)
Alex + Sam with Mom + Dad (Sue, Bill)
A+S with siblings (Sara, Tara)
A+S with Kowalski grandparents (Marjorie, Jim)
A+S with Clinton grandparents (Karen, Oscar)
A+S with Clinton, Kowalski grandparents
Alex with Clinton, Kowalski grandparents
Alex with Mom + Dad (Sue, Bill)
Alex with mom
Alex with dad
Alex with siblings
Sam with parents
Sam with mom
Sam with dad
Sam with siblings
ORGANIZATION IS KEY: Unless we’re missing people I like to work down from the top of the list. Also, keep grandparents and young children in mind when organizing the list; it’s usually easier to swap out your parents and keep Grandma Sally in place for consecutive photos.
ANSWER THE QUESTIONNAIRE: Let me know in the pre-wedding questionnaire (I'll email it to you) if there are any sensitive relationships (divorce, step-family, etc) or situations of which I should be aware.
BEFORE THE CEREMONY, PLZ: In my experience it’s best to keep all family photos to one time slot before the ceremony so we’re not scrambling to find people amidst the sea of other guests and most importantly, so everyone can get right to socializing and celebrating during cocktail hour as they're meant to. I also prefer taking those precious, immediate post-ceremony minutes to grab some "WE'RE MARRIED!" portraits of just the two of you, as you'll both be feeling a variety of emotions at that time.
Sam’s Family (15 phot0s ≈ 15 minutes)
Sam + Alex with Mom + Dad (Erica, Sean)
S+A with siblings (John, Sally)
S+A with siblings and spouses (Jane, Jake)
S+A with Johnson grandparents (Susan, Oliver)
Sam with Johnson grandparents
S+A with Hill family (Sarah, Greg, Jenna, Peter)
S+A with grandmother (Carla)
Sam with grandmother
Sam with Mom + Dad (Erica, Sean)
Sam with siblings
Sam with Mom
Sam with Dad
Alex with parents
Alex with Mom, grandmother, sister, SIL (Erica, Carla, Sally, Jane)
Alex with sister
TIMING IS KEY: If you plan to do large group photos with multiple extended family groups (aunts, uncles, cousins) we will need to allot more time for this in the schedule. A general rule of thumb is to allocate a minimum of 1 minute per photo listed. So if you have 28 total photos listed, we’ll want approximately 30 minutes for this.
WE ALL HAVE THAT ONE COUSIN...: In order for family photos to flow well we need to ensure every person being photographed is at the agreed upon location on time. We all know who our habitually late cousin is, so if it’s necessary to tell them to arrive 15 minutes earlier than everyone else, so be it. ;)
Total Family Photo Time ≈ 30 minutes