Wedding day scheduling is one of the largest obstacles for brides. How much time will things take? What will guests do between the ceremony and the reception? How much time do we need to schedule for photography? Questions like these are enough to make your head spin, and cause a lot of brides to seek the professional help of a wedding planner and coordinator. But, even if you’re planning on your own – we’re here to help! Today, we’re going to talk about formal pictures, and when you should schedule them. We are here to demystify the process and help you establish clear goals for how you want your day to flow.
Formal wedding photography timing is all about one question:
Do I want to see my fiancé before the wedding ceremony, or not?
Taking formal photographs after the wedding ceremony
Let’s face it, not seeing the bride until she’s walking down the aisle is a beautiful tradition. It heightens the emotion of the whole day. And some couples absolutely want to preserve that moment by not seeing each other before the ceremony. We respect that, and we will rejoice with you – we didn’t see each other until our wedding ceremony so we know how beautiful that is!
But there are a few things to consider if you decide to do any formal photography until after the wedding ceremony. The main thing is that it slows down the schedule of the day. By creating a long pause of several hours between the ceremony and reception, you allow your guests down time. During that down time they may be tempted to go back to their hotel room and change out of their party clothes and into jeans and Nascar T-shirts, which no one wants. It also has the potential to bring the momentum of celebration down to a dull roar, which isn’t very festive at all.
Taking formal photographs before the wedding ceremony
If you choose to go this route, the pros and cons are exactly flipped from taking pictures after the ceremony — you’re free to go straight to the ceremony if you wish, but you lose the magic of seeing each other as you’re walking down the aisle.
Wonderful compromises invented by clever photographers
The “Divide and Conquer”
This is exactly what we did on our wedding day and we, frankly, think it’s genius.
Before the ceremony, I had formal pictures taken with my groomsmen, and Heather had pictures taken with her bridesmaids. We didn’t see each other until the wedding ceremony. Heather was stunningly beautiful in her dress with the sun behind her, and I couldn’t control my boyish grin. After the ceremony, we had a quick session with all of our family members. Then our guests went up to the reception hall while a photographer stole us away for a quick portrait session together, while we were still giddy and bubbly with wedding excitement.
This method has some interesting pros and cons. Shuffling the bride and groom around without seeing each other can be a fun challenge. And there’s still some lag between the ceremony and reception, but MUCH less than doing all of the pictures after the ceremony. It maintains all of the emotional energy. Before the ceremony, the formals will have the nervous excitement. And after the ceremony, the pictures will be filled with overwhelming bliss! It’s the photographic equivalent of not spoiling the ending of a movie.
The “First Look”
The first look is the idea of trying to recreate the emotional experience of seeing each other for the first time, but in a private setting – only the bride and groom and the photographers are allowed to be present. Typically the groom waits with his back turned, and the bride walks up and taps him on the shoulder, and he turns around and they see each other, with shutter clicks going off in the background.
A lot of photographers love the first look, because it’s a controlled environment to get some great pictures, and because then you can do all the formal pictures before the ceremony and get them out of the way early. Our only complaint? It can sometimes be an emotional anti-climax. I mean, how “alone” are you going to feel with photographer-snipers in the bushes while you try to pretend they’re not there?
So, what should you do?
Should you do a first look, or split up the photos, or do them all before or after the ceremony? It depends on the schedule of your wedding day, and on how much you value the experience of that first sight of each other. My guess is, after reading this you already know which scenario sounds right to you. If you’re not sure what you want to do, contact us so we can discuss it together! It’s our job to help you come up with a plan that will make your wedding day beautiful, powerful, and memorable, while still running comfortably and smoothly for you and your guests.
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