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Often my wife comments to me that when photographing weddings, I’m not just a wedding photographer, but that I also have a host of duties to assist a bride and groom.   She often teases me that I’m one part photographer, one part comedian, and one part wedding-planner.

And she’s spot-on.

And in the spirit of the “wedding-planner” part of me, I thought I’d write this little informative article to assist brides and grooms in planning the schedule of the wedding day.  You see – here at Making the Moment Photography, we’re not the kind of photographer who just “shows up and takes pictures”, hoping that everything will work out.  We like to invest a bit up front with our brides and grooms, helping couples and advising them on tips and flow for the big day.

Why do we do that?  Well, firstly, although we’ve been to and worked many a wedding, for most couples this is their very first time planning such an event.  Not only is it a scary thing, but there are a lot of unknowns and misconceptions around a certain area of the wedding day; that being the wedding photography itself.

And as we have a vested interest in how wedding photography fits into a couple’s big day, we’ve found it best to spend a good amount of time advising our brides and grooms how to plan best for the photography.  Hence this article being written.

Of course there are many different aspects to how our photography fits in with a couples day, I thought I’d center in a few specific aspects of it –  the “Preparation Phase”, the “Formal/family Portraits” and a signature part of our photography, “The Creative Session”.  What I won’t cover in this article is our reception coverage, and our ceremony coverage – although they’re top-notch, they’re not the focus of this writing.

Preparation Phase

This is the part of a wedding day that most “traditional” photographers won’t touch, but we deeply love it for many a reason.   I’m speaking here of the morning of the big day – where a bride is at the hair salon / family home, having a fun morning with the bridal party while getting ready.  Typically guys are getting ready too… they just don’t get into the make-up or hair parlor scene too well.  =)

We love to arrive and be a part of these times – it’s a great opportunity for us to grab some nice candids of the bride and bridesmaids (sometimes mom too!), relaxed and being themselves.  Lots of laughter and fun moments are here, and a good wedding photographer can really excel at snapping some shots as these moments happen.

Truth be told?  We’re not just there for the photos.  This is a solid time for us to connect with a bit with the bridal party, and to start building some rapport.   If you’ve ever felt that a formal photography is awkward, it’s probably because the photographer never took the time to “ease” you into that session.  These moments in the morning and before the wedding are so great, because a bridal party and family really begin to get used to having a professional photographer around.  I’ve discovered by the time I’ve left a hair salon, I’m usually friends with the bridesmaids, and our formal and creative sessions later are so much natural and effective.

Of course, not every day is the same, and not everyone has a “morning-of” routine.  Any quality photographer understands what it means to be flexible to each unique wedding day.  Bottom line?  We like to start with a bride as soon as she’ll let us.

Formal/family Portraits

Now I’m skipping ahead a bit, and I know that.  By now in a day the ceremony is done, and a couple have exchanged vows and rings, and fun times are about to begin.  But first? Let’s take care of those formalized family portraits!

Family portraits are usually conducted at the ceremony site, often times on the altar, or nearby.  I highly recommend these be conducted as close to the ceremony as possible, only because asking the elderly or those with children to relocate can be difficult. I absolutely discourage these photos being attempted at the reception – this can make things difficult for the flow of your party, and often guests are hard to locate or gather together. It can get pretty crazy very quickly, so directly after the ceremony is usually the best time to do these.

Now, as a creative “non-traditional” photography company, you might think we don’t conduct family formal photographs during a wedding.   While most couples will choose Making the Moment to photograph their wedding because of our creative “un-canned” approach, we still are highly talented at these formal portraits, and we love to serve a couple in this “formal” capacity as well.  However, without proper planning, it can be a very painful stressy experience.

In light of that – here are some tips I recommend embracing while planning out your day’s schedule.

Over-budget Your Time

  • This session will take longer than you might assume – depending on the combinations of people you hope to schedule – budget between 20-60 minutes for this session.   If you have smaller needs here, then obviously budget less.
  • Why plan so much time?  It’s not that the pictures take so long – it’s more that you must always assume the worst case scenario (a member of the bridal party is in the bathroom, or perhaps a necessary individual has wandered away for a moment, and sometimes there are clothing malfunctions!).  These small things nearly always happen, and it’s best to be prepared for them.
  • If you’re having a church-wedding, ensure that there is not another wedding coming soon after your ceremony, or that there is a church event happening.  If this is the case, ensure that you have enough time after your ceremony (including any exit or greeting line) to accommodate for your pictures.
  • Speaking of greeting lines – I’d recommend budgeting an additional 10-20 minutes after the ceremony for this event, dependent upon the number of guests you have.
  • If you’re doing a “fake-exit” (driving away in a car and returning for the formal pictures) make sure you budget this in as well.
  • And finally – I always recommend budgeting in time for your bridal party (and photographer) to pack up any belongings at the church before heading off to your next location.  You might want to consider at least 10 minutes for this process.

Make a List

  • Have a list prepared in advance of all combination of family and people who will be in these portraits.
  • Notify these people ahead of time that they will be asked to be in the formal portraits, and to be ready when called upon.
  • As a photographer, I like to have this list ahead of time so that I can run this part of the day for the bride and groom, so I recommend having this list prepared and sent in advance.
  • Organize it in the order that makes most sense – having elderly people and children at the top of the list, so that they can be excused to head to the reception as soon as possible.
The Creative Session

And finally, what I consider to be one of the most wonderful fun parts of the day.  It’s now time to take some time to get some unique creative photographs of a bridal party and bride and groom.

Sometimes I see this occur directly after the “formal” session and before the reception.  However, we often conduct this session before the ceremony itself.  This isn’t for every couple, and we respect everyone’s feelings and traditions equally.

The advantage in photographs ahead of time is that there is usually less pressure and stress working this way. We call this a “first look” session, as we’re able to come up with creative ways to introduce you to each other privately for the first time. It can take a ton of pressure off, and if you don’t have a lot of room between your wedding and reception for pictures,   Of course, you do lose that moment where a groom sees the bride coming down the aisle – but we have some creative ways to ensure that moment still occurs – just ask us if you’re interested.

However you choose to fit this into your schedule, I have a few recommendations for this as well.

The More Time the Better

  • Let me first say – I believe whole-heartedly that a wedding day does NOT revolve around the photos.  However, a couple pay a lot of money to have their day given the attention it deserves.  That being said – budget as much time for this as possible.  Preferably 2 hours or more for these sessions.
  • A simple equation for this part of a day is this – “More Time Allocated = More Unique / Beautiful Shots”.   A lot of times while looking at photographers portfolios you see (hopefully!) some jaw-dropping shots.  Always remember, these shots take time – and the more time you give to make these shots happen, the more you’ll get back.
  • Obviously, factor in travel time, and even throw in time in for parking.  Traveling in multiple cars?  Assume that someone will get lost or need gas, so over budget this amount of time.
  • I recommend at least 45 minutes per location – and I mean a good 45 minutes of photography (not including traveling / primping).  This time won’t be just used for photos – a lot of it is used to acclimate a couple and a bridal party to thinking creatively and relaxing.  I’ve discovered that the first ten minutes or so at a location are often used to “loosen” the bridal party up.
  • Given Making the Moment’s style of photography – the more time the better – I love to explore the photoshoot with a couple, and come up with ideas as we explore the landscape.  Because we don’t work scripted from a shot sheet, that random creativity always takes a bit, but is well worth the investment.
Location Location Location!

That’s right – you’ll need a good location or two – and definitely an indoor one in case of rain.  For more information on back-up indoor location recommendations – see my article on Cleveland Wedding Photography locations, located here:

As for outdoor and creative locations? Trust our staff to make a recommendation for locations based on your schedule and unique day, as we can often make some wonderful custom recommendations for locations. Most of our signature (and often secret) locations are located in the greater cleveland area and are places we love to take our brides and grooms.

I’m not saying we’re not up for a new location or something that is near and dear to your heart, but we certainly want to avoid the obvious highly trafficked cleveland photography locations (East ninth street pier and the art museum / wade park for instance). These areas are usually slammed with other bridal parties and are a bit “over-shot”. We want your images to have a unique vibe that will fit our style, so often times our couples just trust us to take them around to inspired places that we know will work great.

And there you have it folks, a nice (long) article on pre-planning your big day.  Give this article a read any time you need to start thinking of your schedule.  And of course – feel free to connect with me or my staff on this, we’d love to be of service in helping plan in your photography for the big day.

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