Planning for Perfect Wedding Photos

©David Orr Photography

Simple Planning Tips to Help Your Wedding Day Photos Go Off Without a Hitch

The common thread in the following wedding photo tips is planning. By planning for your wedding photos ahead of time, your big day will go a whole lot smoother, and you and your groom can focus on enjoying your time together with family and friends. Now that sounds like a plan!

Create a Photo Schedule

Sit down with your photographer 1-2 months before your wedding, and create a photo outline for the entire wedding day. Break up your outline into four distinct phases: photos before the ceremony, during the ceremony, after the ceremony, and during the reception. Obviously there are some given photos that the photographer will capture regardless—the ring exchange, kiss, first dance, bouquet toss, etc. What the photo schedule does is establishes a specific time and place for each of those shots, as well as an overall starting and ending time for the photography. This allows you to see exactly how long each photo could take, and where everything fits in your day.

Take Some Group Photos Before the Ceremony

It’s relatively easy to take some time before the ceremony to capture some of the key group photos: bride and bridesmaids, bride and parents, groom and groomsmen, groom and parents, etc. And this can be done without the bride and groom seeing each other. This will cut down on the time after your ceremony for the remaining group photos (family and full bridal party), minimizing the time your guests have to wait before they head off to the cocktail hour. It also means you’ll have more time alone for some romantic couple photos of just the two of you around sunset.

Plan Your Family Group Photos

When completing the photo schedule with your photographer, decide on a set limit of family group photos to do after the wedding. Usually a max of 8 group photos is a safe number. Focus on key groups: full family photo (both sides), bride’s side, groom’s side, bride and groom with each set of parents and siblings, and bride and groom with grandparents. (Following the ceremony, have your DJ or Minister make an announcement of who should stay for the family group photos!) By limiting the number of group photos, you’ll ensure that you have enough time for sunset photos of just the two of you, and also that the reception starts on time.

Beware of backseat photographers: you may have a friend or relative who wants to take over and throw in some extra shots you hadn’t planned on. However, if you take the time to honor the photo requests of everyone, you may find group photos taking 2 hours or more, which will lead to a lot of cranky guests (you and the groom included).

Instead, rely on your photographer as the authority to direct the group photos and keep the schedule moving forward. And don’t forget to share your photo schedule with key family members before the wedding. This will set appropriate expectations of how the day’s photos will be handled.

Show Up On Time

It may seem pretty obvious, but arriving even half an hour late can have serious consequences for your wedding day. Now that you have a wedding schedule established, think about what would happen if everything had to be bumped forward 30 minutes. What once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities and events will have to be left out to make up for lost time?

Allow yourself extra prep and driving time on your wedding day, and plan on showing up early. That way, if there is a traffic problem or otherwise, you’ll still make it to the venue on time and feeling calm.

Have Your Bachelorette/Bachelor Party a Week Before Your Wedding

There’s nothing worse than trying to make it through your wedding day tired and with a throbbing headache. And feeling miserable won’t make for the best wedding photos either. Have your bachelorette/bachelor party a week or two before the wedding, so you can have plenty of time to rest and recuperate.

Rely on Your Maid of Honor and Best Man

Yes, your maid of honor and best man are most likely your best friends and/or sister/brother. All the more reason to ask them for help on your wedding day. They will be more than willing to make sure you enjoy yourself to the fullest. They can assist with simple tasks, such as fetching a glass of ice water, carrying or bustling the train on your wedding dress, and helping gather family members for group photos.

Give Your Vendors’ Contact Information to Your Photographer

This can include your wedding planner, venue coordinator, minister and DJ. Your photographer and these vendors will share and coordinate their schedules before the wedding, to make sure everyone is on the same page. The DJ is an integral part in guiding your reception, and will keep the photographer informed when important events (anniversary dance, garter toss, cake cutting, etc.) are about to begin.

Plan on Having Fun!

Put together an idea file of your favorite images as inspiration for your photographer. This can be a Pinterest page, clippings from bridal and fashion magazines, website links, etc. This will help your photographer to understand your specific tastes and style preferences.

Don’t forget to bring along props for your bridal party group photos—sunglasses, umbrellas, matching shoes or watches, for example. Put your maid of honor or best man in charge of gathering these items for the bridal party.