Planning Your Perfect Wedding Day
Your wedding is something that you plan to so once and every bride and groom hope it is the best day of their lives and so it should be. You are surrounded by experts in the industry who work hard every weekend to make your dreams come true. Here in the UK the trend for your wedding day plans seems to be taking a more USA style approach but is this a good idea?
In the States the bride and groom often see each other before the ceremony. They call this the "First Look" and it's a nice time for the bride and groom to get away together for a few moments before the wedding day starts proper. Believe me, once it starts, your hour hand on your watch is going to look more like the second hand. The day flies by. After this first look and small portrait session the family photos would be arranged with the immediate family.
The groom would then head off to the venue with the guys and greet other guests as they arrive before the bride makes her way there too for the ceremony. All sounds amazing right? After the ceremony there would be a "Cocktail Hour" for the bride and groom to mingle with guests, relax and grabs drink or two. It's this Cocktail Hour that several venues in the UK have latched onto but they don't realise that most of the photos would already have been done before this in the States. So we are expected to take all the photos you need from family groups, candids, bride and groom portraits in under an hour and that's if the wedding runs to time. If the bride is late I'm often told by the venue that the photo time has to be cut so the guests are called to dinner on time.
Thankfully most venues are very accommodating when the ceremony runs late for whatever reason but some aren't so much. The best way to avoid this is to chat with the venue's events planner months beforehand to set out realistic timescales. I know that some venues actually use the 2:30pm wedding as a selling point as it's great "not to have your guests hanging around too long." So your ceremony ends at 3pm and the guests are called for dinner at 4pm. To me, all this means is that you don't really get much time to enjoy YOUR wedding day. That hour flies by and you don't really get much time to enjoy that cocktail, the string quartet you wanted to have playing in the background. Very little time to chat with your guests as you really need to get those family photos (Which i always recommend are kept to a minimum anyway) and the relaxed and romantic bridal portraits.
Why spend most of the day in hair and make-up and only an hour or so enjoying the day before dinner? It just seems crazy to me.
What would I recommend? Well, it really isn't up to me and please be assured I will work with any timings i'm given and believe me I've worked with very tight timings. Fifteen minutes in some cases but If I was planning a wedding? How would I do it? Ok, go on then.
The Ideal Wedding Day Timings
I'd say 1:30 ceremony. It's still only an hour before when most take place these days but that hour is crucial. It also means you'll still have plenty of time for bridal prep too.
The venue can then still call guests for 4:30 to take their seats for dinner and enjoy the speeches so the meal begins at 5pm. So why the big gap between the end of the ceremony and dinner? let's say the ceremony ends at 2:15pm. Straight after the ceremony the last thing a good wedding photographer wants to do is wade in and pull the guests required for family photos away along with the bride and groom. There's great photo opportunities in those moments that happen naturally. I'll always where possible set up a confetti photograph but then step back and let the day unfold. Hugs, smiles and maybe a tear or two. This is YOUR day and you should be in the middle of it.
As the ceremony ended at 2:15, you have time to enjoy a drink before the family photographs which we move onto next. This may happen at 2:45 and take no more than 30 mins. Often less, as at this time it's best to keep the family photos to immediate family and bridal party. As they day goes on I can always get shots of friends, extended family and evening guests as they chat and interact with the bride and groom.
Whats next? Talk to your guests and relax, there is plenty of time. Enjoy another champagne, maybe pose for a few iPhone photos with friends and enjoy it, breathe it in and have a good time. Then at maybe 3:30 we can get some nice shots of the b&g around the venue without rushing and in the knowledge you've had a good time. Easily making it back for dinner and there's no one at the wedding who can say they never saw the bride and groom all day because the photographer whisked them away. You were there mingling with guests with some photos in-between.
Now picture that all happening in 1 hour or worse, 45 minutes.
So if your photographer recommends 2hrs - 2.5hrs "For photos" they probably don't mean they want you to stand for photos for all that time. Its a mix of wedding day fun with your photos in there too.
Other factors to consider. What if the day runs late? Maybe the makeup artist got held up (has happened), the wedding car breaks down (yup) or even if the forecast is showers. Narrowing down your family and bridal photos to between 3pm and 4pm which is also to include guests reception and in some hotels, guest check in along with the possibility of rain and you have potential stress on your day which is the last thing you want. With more time we can wait until that rain shower passes by. Time for a drink then.
As a final note, I have photographed weddings with as little as 15 minutes for photos right up to 3 hours of time and everywhere in-between. I always get the job done, just ask any of my clients and it's always fun and relaxed but I just wish sometimes, the bride and groom had more time to take in every second.