Our goal at Ashford Halley is to provide our clients with the best wedding day photographs possible, and also to make the experience as seamless and stress free as we can. With each wedding that we photograph we bring every ounce of experience, creativity, knowledge, effort, and professional equipment that we have in our possession. However, as in any collaboration, there are things that clients can do and choices that they can make that will greatly increase the odds of success. Below is a resource of information for you as you plan your wedding day that we hope will answer many of your questions, and give you the knowledge we’ve gathered from our many years as wedding photographers to help you get the most out of your coverage with us on your wedding day!
THE WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
Usually the place that clients start as they begin planning their wedding day is the order of events and timing of their wedding day. Because the logistics of every wedding are different there is no “one size fits all” approach to this. However, we can provide a general guideline that will help you to begin planning.
Ceremony Start Time
The start time of your ceremony should be your starting point. It may seem odd to consult us or consider your photography before you lock down a start time for your wedding ceremony, but when clients have the ability to adjust their ceremony start time there are a number of ways that making the right choice can give you the best results for your wedding photography. Even if your wedding is in a cathedral church indoors, the time of your ceremony can make a difference in your wedding photographs. If you’ll be wanting portraits while there is still daylight remaining then planning according to what time the sun will be setting at the time of year of your wedding is critical. And should your ceremony be outdoors, the timing of your ceremony makes all the difference in the world. Only in situations where clients have elected for a “First Look Portrait Session” before their wedding should clients plan their ceremonies to happen as the sun is setting. Ideally your ceremony will end approximately 30 minutes to an hour prior to sunset if clients are wanting outdoor portraits after their ceremony while there is still daylight. If you have done a “First Look Portrait Session” then planning your outdoor wedding ceremony to end at sunset is a fantastic idea. None of these suggestions should be taken as an indication that we cannot or do not like taking portraits at nighttime. Because we bring all of our lighting equipment with us to each wedding we’re able to take portraits in virtually any lighting conditions. However, while we can make you, the subjects, well lit in any conditions this does not apply at all for your background. The sky will be black and the trees will be in shadows if that’s the way that they appear when we take the photographs. In environments that are well lit the mood of nighttime photographs can be quite nice. Just be aware that for anything more than the subjects of the photographs, we are at the mercy of how your backdrop looks at that time of day or night.
The First Look
“First Look Portrait Sessions” before your wedding ceremony are a great way to spend a bit more time getting portraits of the two of you on your wedding day, and they also provide a more intimate experience as you both see each other for the first time on your wedding day. Many of our clients elect to see each other at the alter on their wedding day, and we never push for one approach over the other, but should you choose to go this route there are logistical considerations to take into account. You will need more pre-wedding coverage should you elect to do a “First Look” than without one, so you’ll want to make sure that you have enough coverage in your package for this. We generally recommend that “First Looks” happen approximately an hour and a half before your ceremony start time. If we plan for 20 – 25 minutes for your “First Look”, then this leaves us time afterwards to do any and all group photographs as well. It is totally possible with this approach that once your ceremony is over you will not have any photographs left to take that may delay you getting to your reception. However, clients should consider the logistics of their locations in making final decisions about their timelines. If your “First Look” is happening at the same location as your wedding venue then the above timeline is probably ideal. However, if there will be travel to your ceremony site to take into account then you should probably take the approximate travel time and move everything back by that much.
The Last 30 Minutes Before the Ceremony
We’ll need to get ourselves set up for your wedding ceremony, so you’ll need to allot time for this in your pre-wedding coverage. We generally prefer to be at the site of your wedding ceremony and finished with any and all photographs 30 minutes prior to your ceremony start time. This gives us time to discuss our strategy for your ceremony and get our gear set up and ready to go. While we will likely be taking some photographs during this time, it is best to plan for everything to be done beforehand and let us concentrate on candid photographs in the final moments leading up to your wedding. Should you be planning for group photographs to be taking place before your ceremony 30 minutes beforehand may not be enough, as wedding guests generally begin arriving at more like 45 minutes to an hour before the start of the ceremony.
The Getting Ready
“Getting Ready” photographs are the part that will determine our start time on your wedding day. All of the other events listed above will help you work backwards from your ceremony start time to determine what time you want our coverage to begin. How much coverage do you need for your “Getting Ready Photographs?” That answer will depend on a few variables. Generally speaking, when we arrive the first thing that we will do is to begin getting photographs of all of the details. We usually advise having all of this set aside prior to our arrival, and we’ll usually begin with photographs of your dress, shoes, jewelry, flowers, bridesmaids dresses, etc. It is usually best to plan for your hair and makeup to be wrapping up around the time that we arrive, unless you are wanting this portion documented as well. We’ll get photographs of the final touches being applied, and then it will be on to the big stuff. A lot of brides like to do some informal pictures with their bridesmaids at this time, which we welcome and encourage. These are fun pictures so don’t take them too seriously! At the same time that all of this is happening, one of us will likely be photographing the groom and groomsmen as well. The guys typically do not require, or want, a lot of “Getting Ready” type coverage so we usually plan to get some last minute getting ready and then take them to do their group photographs. It is usually a good idea, should you be getting ready at a location that is separate from your ceremony, to have the guys at the same location as the girls. This gives us the ability to float back and forth between, and also keeps the logistics simplified which is always a good thing. Most of the time when these locations are separate from each other we recommend just having the guys be at the ceremony site for this portion, so that one of us will then be in a position to get ready for the ceremony afterwards. Depending on how much coverage you have, if you are not doing a “First Look Portrait Session”, you may be planning to have group photographs of you and your bridesmaids taken beforehand. There are a few requirements that we’ll have however that you’ll need to consider for this. In order for us to do formal group photographs there is certain gear that we’ll need to have access to. Because of this, we’ll need to have the guys and girls in the same location. Most of the time group photographs are a two person job, or at the very least your two photographers will need to have access to one another. So you’ll need to plan accordingly should you be wanting to get group photographs of the bridesmaids and the groomsmen separately before your ceremony. However, it should be pointed out that if you have bypassed a “First Look” you will not be saving a significant amount of time after your ceremony by having done these photographs beforehand. Since we will not be able to have the two of you together before your ceremony, we will have to get all of the same people gathered together immediately after your ceremony so any time savings from going this route will be negligible. If you are limited in your coverage, or your budget prohibits adding additional time for this on your wedding day, then we suggest bypassing group photographs beforehand and just concentrating on documentary “Getting Ready” coverage. And how much time will you need for just this portion of documentary “Getting Ready” coverage? We usually suggest an hour for just this portion. While some clients do not need a full hour, it is usually a good idea to design a bit of “buffer time” into your timeline just in case everything does not go exactly according to plan.
Portraits and Group Photos After the Ceremony
How much time will you need for portraits and group photographs after your wedding ceremony? If you have bypassed seeing each other before your ceremony in a “First Look” you should plan for a half hour for this portion more than likely. We pride ourselves in being extremely fast and efficient at this portion of wedding photography. We’ll have our gear pulled out, set up, and ready to go likely before you get back up to the alter. Will all of your family and wedding party be ready to go as quickly? The answer is probably not. We suggest to all of our clients that you speak to your family members and wedding party who will be participating in this portion at your rehearsal and stress to them that you will want them present and ready to take pictures immediately after your ceremony. For our part we will work from any list of photographs that you provide us, and we’ll use our “loud voice” to gather people for each photograph as efficiently as possible. But no one will have greater influence over how long this portion takes than the people who will be participating in it. Also, the total amount of group photographs you’ll be wanting to get will have a great impact on how long this portion will take. We suggest keeping the list as short and consolidated as you can. 10 – 15 total group photographs is a pretty good average to aim for. We’ll take as many as you like for this portion, but we stress to all of our clients that if this portion is something that you want done quickly then keeping your list short is the best guarantee that we can get this done in a reasonable amount of time. Of this portion of post ceremony photographs, you should allot a minimum of 10 -15 minutes just for photographs of the two of you. These will be some of the most important photographs that we take on your wedding day, so planning in enough time for us to be able to carefully create the portraits that you want from your wedding day is a must. Don’t let the anticipation and stress of getting to your reception compromise the only posed photographs that you’ll likely have from your wedding day. Clients should note that we are happy to spend as much time as they like taking portraits, so clients who are wanting more of this and would like to plan for a more complete and creative portion of portrait photography of the bride and groom are welcome and encouraged to do so!
Wait for the Photographers!
We’ve just finished up post ceremony photographs, so it’s time to head to the reception and get announced right? Not so fast! We cannot stress enough to our clients this next point….. Wait for your photographers!!! We will be the very last people to leave the ceremony site. We have gear that we have to pack up and transport to your reception, and although we’ll be scrambling to get this done and be in place as quickly as possible there is no doubt that we will be the last to arrive since we will be the last to leave the ceremony. We suggest that you relax for a few minutes and grab a drink. If you’re in a limo you should grab a drink and stay there until we come and get you. If you’ll be going to a separate room on arrival wait for us to confirm that we are ready. If you’re standing outside of the door waiting to be announced, make sure that we’ve let you know that we’re in place and ready to go. Because if you’ve been announced or gone into your first dance without confirmation that we are at your reception and properly set up, you run the very real possibility of not having any photographs of it!
Your reception timeline will be much less critical from our perspective than all of the other things that we’ve mentioned above. However, there are still a few things to consider to get the most from your reception coverage. From our standpoint, the order of events is not likely going to affect our coverage and your wedding photographs. However, by consolidating events during your reception you can help the flow of things and encourage more of the partying that you’re likely looking for. As a whole we generally recommend not breaking up the entire reception for each separate event, like dances, toasts, cake cutting, etc. Usually having one follow right after the other is a good thing, as sometimes having large portions of uninterrupted time set aside for dancing, drinking, and mingling is the best way to guarantee that your guests get up (or down!) and participate. During this portion we encourage you to grab us at any point for any photographs that you’d like, as many times as you like. By default our coverage for your reception will be candid and we will capture things as they happen. But we are there for you, and we want to take any photographs that you want of friends and family members who’ve come to your wedding. Just wave to us and let us know any time you need a photo taken and we’ll be there! Clients should be aware however that in the absence of your input, or an event happening during the reception that we’ll be photographing, our focus will be near the dance floor or where the action is. We do not do “Table Shots” of your guests because these are generally not flattering, and your guests usually do not want to be photographed while they are sitting, relaxing, and eating. If you are wanting to have your guests who are not on the dance floor photographed, our suggestion is to let us know that you’ll be doing so and to go over to each of the table to greet your guests. This gives us an opportunity to get either some candid photographs of you interacting with them, or for you to gather them together and for us to take posed pictures for you. Either option is better than pictures of grandpa inserting cake into his mouth!
We hope that this information is helpful and we look forward to working with you!!