Look... let's be honest... You want AMAZING wedding photos but... You also want to party with all your friends and if possible enjoy your cocktail hour.
Is the best of both worlds even possible ?!?
Of course it is !! Let me tell you how !
Ok so, it really comes down to a 5 Key Things...
1- Hire the right photographer - A Photographer with over 5 years of experience knows weddings. They know weddings so well that they could run a wedding in their sleep. They can pull together a full day timeline based on knowing just your ceremony time. They know and understand all the little intricacies of a wedding day. Their minds are always two steps ahead of you and problem solving time delays, weather, and anything else to make sure you have the perfect wedding day.
"But my wedding is so different then any other wedding." Yes, that is probably true but no matter how different, most weddings run on a similar timeline.
Of course an experienced Photographer often comes at a higher cost... Let me put it to you this way... Photog A with 5 years of experience costs $4k... Photog B with 2 years of experience costs $3k. Photog A gets you to your cocktail hour and keeps your day on time. Photog B takes 45 minutes just for family formals and then another 45 minutes for your photos... You've missed the cocktail hour and are late to the reception... And because the photos took so long your smile started to look fake halfway through.
2- Be Realistic - If you have a family formal list of 50+ different shots it's going to take some time. I am personally a family formal speed demon and can get family formals done no matter how large the family is in 10-15 minutes tops. Most photographers are not that quick and it can take up to 30 minutes for family formals. Stick with immediate family which includes grandparents. Save the larger family photos for the reception. It also helps to keep the instagram photos ideas to a minimum. An experienced photographer will know how to set up the shot for the location and your body type.
3- First Look (When a couple sees each other before the ceremony) - This is always a mental debate for me on whether my couples should or shouldn't do a first look. If you are getting married in Oct-March. I HIGHLY encourage a first look. This is the time of year where the sun sets before 6pm and because most ceremonies don't start till 4:30pm or later this will give you minimal time for photos outdoors in the light. If you are getting married in July-September I am typically against a first look. The reason being... it is hot as hades that time of year. There is nothing worse than a whole wedding party soaked head to toe in sweat before the ceremony. First looks this time of year typically take place right in the hottest part of the day. 3:00-5:00pm.
4- Add in Buffer Time - If your ceremony is at 5pm at the church down the road... no one has ever said you need to start your reception the minute the ceremony is over. Give your guests time to drive. Maybe they need to pick you up a card or gift for your wedding. Add at least 30 minutes to the travel time. For example: Your ceremony is about 45 minutes, it takes 15 minutes to drive to the venue from the ceremony site. Plan your ceremony 5:00-6:00, Travel time 6:00-6:30, and have your cocktail hour start at 6:30. Now if everything runs on time... you have 15 minutes at the end of the ceremony for family portraits, and an extra 15 minutes of photos with the two of you and your wedding party before the cocktail hour even starts! Which means you could very well end up enjoying at least 30 minutes of your cocktail hour!
5- Be Flexible through the night- Another way to get more photos is to allow the photographer to sneak you out throughout the night. I find that most of the time sunset or the best part of golden hour occurs right as dinner is about to be served. If a couple doesn't have a ceremony time when they meet me I will plan their whole day around sunset. I like for the ceremony to end at least 2 hours before sunset. It's typically good light and it will put us into Golden Hour towards the end of the cocktail hour. I tell my couples to do their entrance, first dance, and then after the salads are cleared and while the first course is served we sneak out for 15 minutes to get some epic light portraits. This is also one of the last times the two of you will have a quite moment together to reflect on the day. When we get back the couple eats their dinner while the toasts begin. (Another plus to this... You actually get to eat without interruption. Guests won't bother you if they have food on their plate.
I also take my couples out one more time for night photos. This really depends on how the night is going. It's another 10 minutes but usually my favorite photos.
- Smaller Wedding Parties always help speed things along. Wrangling 10 people is much easier then 30.
- Extend the cocktail hour. Make it a cocktail hour and a half.
- Do an engagement session. Engagement sessions with your photographer help eliminate those nervous moments of being in front of a camera. It always helps when you are already comfortable working together with your photographer. Plus you will already know what to do with your hands!
- Try to limit family and friends from bringing cameras or taking photos during family or portrait sessions. When there is more then one camera people start to get confused on where to look. One camera... all eyes on the photographer... We can move faster and get better photos! Most photographers give their couples a website where anyone who goes on the site can download the images for free. The rest of the day guests can shoot away.
- The more time a photographer has the more opportunity for creative images. I personally can move as fast as I need to to produce killer wedding photos. But I never mind when I have more time to set up a shot. And think about some other creative ideas. In an ideal world 1 hour to 1.5 hours is perfect for photos especially if your traveling from locations.
- Do a walkthrough. I offer a walkthrough to all my couples. About two weeks before the wedding we go over the timeline and walk through where we are doing photos. This way the day of the wedding rain or shine we have a plan.
Above all... Trust your Photographer ! You hired them for a reason. If you hired an experienced photographer they will be able to provide you with an amazing experience and even better wedding photos!